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Two trans people of color sit in a park, with a hazy sunlight on their faces -- they look as if they're having a picnic, and are gazing happily at each other.
Las solicitudes para GIFT se cierran el 15 de diciembre. (The Gender Spectrum Collection)

'GIFT' Is San Francisco's Guaranteed Income Program for Transgender People — Here's How to Apply

'GIFT' Is San Francisco's Guaranteed Income Program for Transgender People — Here's How to Apply

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San Francisco’s GIFT program will provide 55 trans people living in the city with $1,200 per month for up to 18 months — and the deadline to apply is approaching fast.

GIFT — which stands for Guaranteed Income for Transgender People — is the first guaranteed income program in the Bay Area that focuses solely on serving trans people. It's a creation of San Francisco officials in partnership with Lyon-Martin Community Health Services — an organization that provides medical care for trans, nonbinary and intersex people, along with cisgender women who are part of the LGBTQA+ community — and SF's Transgender District, which works to empower trans people, and to make trans people and history more visible.

The deadline to apply for GIFT is Thursday, Dec. 15. There's an online GIFT application form, where you can upload all the required documents in the same portal. GIFT's site is also available fully in Spanish.

GIFT's site includes a commonly asked questions section, and we’ve also created this guide to answer additional questions that audiences asked KQED about the program.

Jump to:

What is GIFT, and what is the program meant to do?

The GIFT program will offer 55 trans people in San Francisco a guaranteed income of $1,200 per month, for 18 months — starting in January 2023 and ending in June 2024.

The funds will be given to participants via a new debit Visa card, which the program will reload with a fresh $1,200 each month.

Aubrey Davis, executive associate with the Transgender District, points out that many trans people in San Francisco continue to struggle making ends meet, due to layoffs but also discrimination that can make it harder for them to find a job.

She says some trans folks are also dealing with homelessness and housing insecurity, after being pushed out by family.

“What this program is supposed to do is help the situation — make it possible for people to support themselves, for them to just have a little bit more ease with their finances,” Davis said. She added that by receiving direct financial assistance each month to cover some essential expenses, folks living in one of the most expensive cities in the country will be getting some sort of lifeline.

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Who can apply for GIFT?

To qualify to apply for GIFT, you must be:

  • Age 18 or over
  • Not be receiving more than $600 per month in income
  • Live in the city and county of San Francisco
  • Agree to complete a survey for GIFT every three months during the program

Your application must be fully completed and finished by the deadline of Dec. 15 to be considered for GIFT. Remember, 55 recipients will ultimately be selected for this pilot program.

Because only San Francisco residents can be participants in the program, since funding comes from the city and county of San Francisco, enrolled participants who then leave San Francisco would also have to leave the GIFT program.

How does GIFT work with my taxes, or with other benefits I'm receiving?

You’ll have to report what you received from GIFT to the IRS when you file your 2023 taxes in 2024.

Other government agencies, like the Social Security Administration, will also consider GIFT as income — which could potentially affect other benefits folks receive, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

“Sometimes it takes decades to get on SSI and when you finally receive it, you can only earn so much,” said Samuel Favela, program associate at the Transgender District. SSI and other government lifeline programs like CalFresh have strict income limits. And Favela points out the possibility that someone could lose these benefits if they exceed the income cap by receiving GIFT.

If you are chosen to be a GIFT participant and you also receive state benefits like CalFresh or CalWorks, Favela recommends notifying that agency about GIFT — before you start receiving money. “If [you] don't report this, it’s going to catch up to [you] at the end of this program,” said Favela.

However, Favela says the team at the Transgender District is committed to helping folks in these tricky situations, as the organization believes that someone shouldn’t have to choose between two lifelines when trying to survive.

“There's waivers that they could sign up for and we're going to be working with them on that as well.” said Favela.

But the most important thing you can do if you're receiving government benefits and are moving forward along the GIFT application process? Be as transparent as possible with both GIFT organizers and government agencies. “Their case manager is probably the best person [to contact], and their case manager can then reach out to us, too,” Favela added.

I work informally. What can I do to prove my income?

On the GIFT website, you can upload a variety of documents to go with your application that verify how much you earn. That can include W-2 forms, pay stubs or even bank statements. People who only receive SSI or SSDI income can share the letters they receive from the Social Security Administration confirming they receive these benefits. Even financial aid letters from schools are accepted as well.

But if you work informally and do not have documentation to go along with your earnings, you can instead provide a self-attestation letter. This income attestation form is available as a PDF on the GIFT website along with other documents to download and use, and lets you share how much income you are making a month, how many people live with you and why you cannot provide proof of income.

“We’re trusting people to make sure that they come in with correct information and have good intentions,” said Favela, who added that they are very understanding that folks have many different ways to pay the bills. "So if they want to let us know that they're doing sex work and this is how much they make that month, they could just write an email and fill out that section that way,” Favela said.

Two hands with dark brown skin type on a laptop in front of a window.
On the GIFT website, you can upload a variety of documents to go with your application that verify how much you earn. (Cottonbro/Pexels)

My living situation is complicated, or I'm between housing at the moment. How can I prove I live in San Francisco?

Just like verifying your income, there are many ways you can confirm you currently live in San Francisco. If you don’t have any mail from PG&E or a phone company that includes your name and current address, you can ask a social worker or health care provider or agency you are working with to write a letter that confirms you are living in the city.

If you are staying at a shelter, you can request a homeless verification letter from shelter management. But if that's not an option, either, you can fill out a different proof-of-residency self-attestation form available on the GIFT website (PDF).

On the residency attestation form, you will have to confirm that you are currently unhoused and that there is not an agency or organization able to provide a letter confirming your housing status. Once completed, you can then upload it to the website with the rest of your documents.

What about those follow-up surveys GIFT participants have to complete every three months?

Aubrey Davis, executive associate with the Transgender District, confirms that the goal of these check-ins is to understand how folks are doing since the program started. “We are not policing them on how to spend the money,” Davis said. “But we would like to know how it's improving their life.”

The Lyon-Martin Community Health Services and the Transgender District will take part in these follow-ups, which would also touch on how a participant’s daily routine and responsibilities are changing. For example, Davis explained, “Are they receiving the mental health that they need? Are they able to pay for food? Are they able to pay for insurance? Are they able to go to those doctor's appointments or get prescriptions?”

In these conversations, if a participant shares that they need health care services, they can be connected to treatment at Lyon-Martin Community Health Services. Some of this data will also be shared with the Office of Transgender Initiatives at City Hall. However, the team at the Transgender District clarified that this data will be used to better understand the impact of the program.

It’s also important to mention that city agencies do not share information on someone’s immigration status with federal agencies.

Can I apply to this program if I'm undocumented?

Yes, and you do not need a Social Security number to receive GIFT income.

People who are monolingual Spanish-speakers and undocumented immigrants have priority enrollment, say the organizers.

How exactly will participants be chosen?

Lyon-Martin Community Health Services and the Transgender District will select participants randomly. But among the target audience of trans San Franciscans, the program still has "demographics that we're trying to hit," said Favela.

"Sixty percent of people that we're going [to] try to have in the program are Black trans folks," they said. "So in that randomized selection, at least 60% are going to be [Black trans folks]."

"We will sort them out to each category that they fall in and then just randomize within each category," added Davis.

I need help completing my application. Where can I go?

Because the GIFT application is only available online, it can be harder for people without regular access to a computer, or a stable internet connection, to apply.

To offer more personalized advice, the team at Lyon-Martin Community Health Services is taking walk-ins from folks who are interested in applying or have questions about their applications. You can talk to the team in person at the Lyon-Martin Community Health Services clinic located at 1735 Mission St., close to the 14 and 49 Muni lines. You can also call the front desk at (415) 565-7667.

Davis, with the Transgender District, also recommends reaching out to your social worker if you have one. If you or someone you know needs more help in Spanish, Davis recommends reaching out to El/La Para TransLatinas, an organization that focuses on serving and advocating for trans Latinx people in the Bay Area. You can contact them by phone at (415) 864-7278.

What if you really want to apply for GIFT before the Dec. 15 deadline, but feel unsure or even nervous about doing so? You should still go for it, says Davis.

“Don't feel hesitant,” Davis urged, adding that because this is a pilot program, it can influence what San Francisco — and potentially many other cities — does.

“At the moment, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and this will help so many more trans people, trans kids and trans elderly in the future,” she said.

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