Mar 11, 2024 - News

Minnesota weighs cash aid for families moving for gender-affirming care

Illustration of a caduceus with two Pride flags as the wings.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Minnesota lawmakers may set aside $1 million to support LGBTQ+ families, including those moving to the state to seek gender-affirming care.

The big picture: Last year, the DFL-controlled Legislature sought to make Minnesota a "trans refuge state," by adding protections for patients and providers.

  • Advocates say the changes are already leading more people to come here to seek treatment or escape anti-trans policies in other places.

What they're saying: Rep. Leigh Finke, who authored both bills, said the goal is "to help create a soft landing" for such transplants.

  • "When you uproot and move your whole family, sometimes you need a little help getting into your new life," the St. Paul Democrat, who is the state's first openly trans legislator, said during a committee hearing last week.

By the numbers: Data on how many people are moving to Minnesota for gender-affirming care is hard to come by.

  • But one community survey conducted by the nonprofit PFund Foundation in the first six months following implementation of last year's law identified 150 people planning to "seek refuge" here. About a third said they would bring family.
  • The gender health clinic at Children's Minnesota saw a 30% increase in new patient calls in 2023, Angela Kade Goepferd, a pediatrician who runs the program, told lawmakers.

Zoom in: Under an amended version of the bill, PFund would use the $1 million to provide grants to nonprofits that support the LGBTQ+ community.

  • The money could be used for everything from building capacity for gender-affirming care providers to creating economic opportunities and "pathways out of poverty" for both new and longtime LGBTQ+ residents.
  • Programs aimed at "fostering community integration" for families "seeking refuge" here would also be eligible.

What to expect: Supporters say the grants would allow them to train or recruit more than a half a dozen new health care providers.

  • The foundation's executive director Aaron Zimmerman estimates that would result in each new provider being able to treat 250 more patients each month.

The other side: Some members of the committee questioned whether the state should be extending aid to just one demographic group, when there are multiple scenarios that could necessitate moves and industries that need more workers.

  • "There are many groups with valid needs that want to have funding support to move that could enter the workforce and as this committee," GOP Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar said, citing veterans or people seeking treatment for rare diseases or even IVF.

Zoom out: The bill, which was set aside for possible inclusion in a broader jobs spending bill, is one of several priorities for the Legislature's Queer Caucus, which has grown in size and influence in recent years.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show the funding could result in each new provider being able to treat 250 more patients each month (not to treat 250 more total patients each month) and updated with additional context about the bill.

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