Palm Springs Mayor: City is not funding universal basic income program for trans community

Universal Basic Income Palm Springs

Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton speaks during Thursday’s city council meeting, responding to hostility from people upset about the council’s vote last month hat allocated $200,000 to two local groups to help them create a universal basic income pilot program for transgender residents. Photo: Screengrab

Palm Springs city staff have been subjected to “abuse” by people hostile to a city council vote last month that allocated $200,000 to two local groups to help them create a universal basic income pilot program for transgender residents, Mayor Lisa Middleton said.

Middleton, who identifies as transgender, said the vitriol is fueled by “animus” toward the transgender community.

Some national media outlets have misrepresented the council vote, she said, and that’s when the “disgusting phone calls and messages” started.

Middleton made her comments at the end of Thursday’s council meeting.

“Many of us would like us to believe that animus against the transgender community plays no role in their decision to single out this particular program,” she said. “That does not carry muster, it does not ring true. What we’ve come to understand and what we believe is it was animus.”

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LGBT people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6%, which is much higher than the rate for cisgender straight people of 15.7%, according to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute.

Among LGBT individuals, transgender people have an especially high poverty rate of 29.4%, the study said.

The council voted unanimously March 24 to give $200,000 to Queer Works and DAP Health. Leaders from those organizations told the council that funding would pay their teams to design a pilot program and application.

They hope those efforts would yield a portion of the $35 million in grants that California has budgeted for groups wanting to set up universal basic income programs.

In the council vote, Palm Springs didn’t agree to give funding to any organization who might receive state approval for its program. 

Fox News, the Washington Post, and NPR have published stories recently about the vote, but the articles incorrectly said Palm Springs would be funding the universal basic income program.

“Over the last two weeks, the folks who answer telephones and receive emails and other things on our behalf at city hall have been exposed to a level of abuse of frankly, frequently disgusting phone calls and messages,” Middleton said during her remarks Thursday.

“None of the folks who answer our phones or answer our mail make public policy decisions for our city. We do on city council,” she said.  “We are your elected officials. If you are angry about something that we have done, it is thoroughly appropriate to talk to us.”

Middleton also explained, again, how the $200,000 allocated by the council would be used.

“None of that $200,000 is going to provide benefits in the form of income to anyone,” she said. “That is not what we approved. We approved providing funding so DAP and Queer Works provide an application.” 

“We have made a determination to help an organization in our city complete an application process and have the best chance to compete for funds,” Middleton said.

“We are trying to make clear no program has been put into place and no funding commitment beyond the $200,000 has been made by the City of Palm Springs,” she said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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