How Government Closure Impacts LGBTQ Community

A few thoughts on how shutting down the federal government could impact the LGBTQ community directly.

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1. The Women Infants and Children program is suspended. With more than 20% of lesbian headed families relying on food stamps, these cuts will be immediate and severe to many of those families. It also delays processing of new applications and any sort of paperwork appeals in process. This is a very serious consequence. In some states, the blow will be lessened by state monies but the length of the shutdowm – if more than a month – could jeopardize that. Then there’s the fact the food stamps themselves have been cut.

2. Funding for Housing Authorities will only last until the end of October. Then HUD will not be able to send out any further money to subsidize rents.

3. From the Washington Blade:

 According to a shutdown plan from the Department of Health & Human Services,the cut off of federal funds means a loss of oversight for Ryan White AIDS Grants, a freeze in new medical research at the National Institutes of Health and no more updates for treatment and prevention recommendations for HIV at the Centers for Disease Control.

The loss of oversight means a critical layer of protection for HIV+ individuals has been eliminated. Delays in research speak for themselves.

4.  The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering hotline calls about medical questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop its seasonal flu program.

5.  If the shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said that it may not have enough money to pay disability claims and pension payments. That could affect some 3.6 million veterans.

Rolling out new federal benefits. This might just be me,  but hundreds of federal regulations are being revised to accomodate the DOMA ruling.  I highly doubt that’s considered essential work. So we might ask “justice delayed is justice denied?” Even just a quick overview of the federal IRS regulations alone for legally married couples could become umpteen times more complicated by the delay – the longer it takes for the regulations & polities to be updated, the longer it takes to educate the CPAs and tax preparers and the public. And what about changes that continue to take place which could impact tax obligations? More amended returns, more cost to the citizens.

If you have federal paperwork – passport, social security card, medicare card, etc – make sure you don’t lose it. There’s no one on the other end of the toll free hotline to help you replace it with any degree of ease.

I’m not writing this to panic anyone because for the most part these are horrible inconveniences and costly delays. But I want to bring you back to the items around hunger, housing and health – while we can figure out our taxes a little later than we planned, how do families purchase food for their children? What about LGBTQ elders living in subsidized housing on Social Security, perhaps only $800 a month? It is not an exaggeration that a low income LGBTQ family could lose food resources, health care like flu shots, non-essential work at their publicly funded housing sight and more.  If they rely on unemployment … this could be disastrous.

An example – HUD is required  by federal regulation to not discriminate against LGBTQ tenants even if there is no local ordinance. Without oversight, that’s cold comfort for the family who gets evicted or harassed because they are queer and living in Beaver County.

So what can you do to help?

– Touch base with family, friends and neighbors and be sure to ask how they are managing and offer your support.

– Donate. Donate to the Food Bank, the local health care clinic, thrift stores, whatever.

– Advocate. Call your Member of Congress and tell them what you think of all this. Then get the people you know to do the same thing.

Yes, Congress can continued to be paid during a shutdown. They could vote not to do it, but they are Constitutionally entitled to their salary. If that angers you, do something.