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Political Notebook: Breed proposes San Francisco launch monthly income program for transgender residents

Assistant Editor

San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

San Francisco Mayor London Breed is proposing that the city launch the first universal basic income program for transgender individuals as part of her budgets for the next two fiscal years. Up to 150 participants would receive $1,000 each month for up to a year under the guaranteed income pilot project.

The program would cost $2 million over two years and will be done in partnership with the office of gay Treasurer-Tax Collector José Cisneros. Selecting a community organization to help coordinate with the city's various transgender groups on recruiting and selecting applicants for the program will be the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, led by gay director Eric. D. Shaw.

"We will build on our guaranteed income pilot by adding a new program to deliver payment to members of our transgender community," said Breed, whose announcement of the program June 1 coincided with the start of Pride Month.

It is just one of myriad LGBTQ-focused programs Breed included in her balanced budget proposal for fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The mayor released her budget Tuesday, June 1, at a ceremony held in the newly renovated Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground in the city's Chinatown neighborhood.

Another new program Breed is seeking $900,000 for in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is to launch a LGBTQ senior tele-mental health program and expand digital access services for seniors. It is expected to provide services for up to 500 LGBTQ seniors while adding mental health resources for those who experienced increased isolation, depression and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clair Farley, a transgender woman who is a mayoral adviser and executive director of the city's Office of Transgender Initiatives, told the Bay Area Reporter that the idea for the universal basic income program came from her office's transgender advisory committee. The city hopes to launch the program this October.

"We worked over the last year to do some visioning on how to create more stability in the community, especially with the result of the pandemic, and how to build a stronger safety net and foundation for the community," said Farley. "The idea of a universal income came up as a way we can ensure people have access to food and shelter and all the basic necessities of health care and mental health."

Transgender individuals who have been the most impacted by the COVID pandemic will be prioritized for the program, with Black and Latina transgender women given particular priority as well as people who might need support with benefit navigation and financial literacy, said Farley.

"There will be a whole wraparound program in partnership with the treasurer's office to provide financial education and coaching," she said.

Cisneros told the B.A.R. his office is "proud" to be a part of the pilot program.

"We are working a lot with the mayor and project leads on how to distribute the funds," he said. "I believe that these basic income pilots are critical to learning how we can help people who are struggling financially to be supported and to be successful."

Priority will also be given to applicants who are disconnected for various reasons to other benefits that are available, added Farley.

"This pilot is a good opportunity for building more self sufficiency and economic mobility if someone wants to go back to school or may not be able to access other benefits because of immigration status or discrimination in the workforce," she said.

As for the new LGBTQ seniors tele-health medicine program, the city's Department of Disability and Aging Services will issue the request for proposals from community groups to administer it. The idea came from an LGBT Senior Task Force that reconvened last year to help the city address the needs of LGBTQ seniors during the health crisis, said Farley.

"The mayor really wanted to prioritize our seniors in the recovery and look at how we build stronger support systems for crises in the future and also ensure we are addressing those gaps," she said.

According to the mayor's office Breed's $13.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-22 and $12.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2022-23 budget seeks to be responsive to the city's most urgent needs as it moves forward on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, while preserving long-term financial sustainability. It avoided seeking cuts from city departments as a projected deficit did not materialize due to the surprising strength of the economy despite the health crisis.

"San Francisco demonstrated our values and resilience over the last year, and I have no doubt that we will come back even stronger from COVID-19," said Breed. "As we move forward out of the pandemic this budget will ensure that our recovery is equitable and that we are delivering solutions to the most important issues impacting our city. We're making significant investments to reduce homelessness, expand mental health support, support public safety, and address the social inequities laid bare by this pandemic, while also making responsible choices that maintain our budget reserves so we can continue providing critical city services and support for our must vulnerable residents, no matter what lies ahead."

It includes $1.8 million to continue the city's Trans Home SF program that provides rental subsidies and transitional housing to transgender individuals, noted Farley, as well as funding for a program that assists LGBTQ people who are first-time homebuyers. The $2.2 million reinvested from the city's police department into violence prevention programs and reentry efforts for formerly incarcerated Black trans women is also maintained in the mayor's budget proposal.

Farley said her office is still waiting word from various city departments on what LGBTQ-specific programs they have proposed to fund over the next two years. And she noted that the mayor's budget proposals for arts grants, emergency housing, back rent assistance, family and youth programs, and investments in small businesses will also benefit the LGBTQ community.

"We will be getting detail on specific line items over the next week or so," she said.

Through the end of June, the Board of Supervisors' Budget and Appropriations Committee will hold public hearings on the budget and will make recommendations to the full Board. In July, the supervisors will vote on the budget then return it to Breed for her approval, typically by August 1.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. The column returns Monday, June 7.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

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