President Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget would seriously harm the LGBTQ community, many of whom rely on the public programs the administration is intent on shrinking. Even the initiative to end HIV is deeply flawed, experts on LGBTQ policy say.
The 2020 budget includes a $8.6 billion cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program and capital improvement funds for public housing repairs.
The LGBTQ community disproportionately experience homelessness and rely on public housing assistance.
A 2017 Center for American Progress (CAP) survey found that LGBTQ people and their families relied on public housing assistance at 2.5 times the rate of people who weren’t in the LGBTQ community. Sharita Gruberg, director of policy for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at CAP, said trans people are five times more likely to report receiving some kind of housing assistance. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)
A 2012 Williams Institute report found that 30 percent of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBTQ.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement, “With this budget request, President Trump and [HUD] Secretary [Ben] Carson are making clear in no uncertain terms their willingness to increase evictions and homelessness—for the vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and families with kids who will be unable to manage having to spend more of their very limited incomes to cover rent hikes.”
The administration also proposes cutting Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years and putting more restrictions on how people access Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and housing vouchers through work requirements. The administration wants to see a $777 billion cut to Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies and Medicaid spending over 10 years.
The 2017 survey also found that LGBTQ people reported they or their family received SNAP benefits at more than twice the rate of straight and cisgender people. Since LGBTQ people are more likely to be uninsured, they would likely benefit from Medicaid expansion, according to the report.
LGBTQ people are also affected by the administration’s treatment of undocumented people. The administration would like to see a 7.8 percent increase for the Department of Homeland Security budget. The budget seeks more money for immigration jail beds, immigration agents, and other staff. It also creates a “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Fund” to expand immigration jails and immigration enforcement.
“It keeps happening every budget cycle where Congress wants to allocate a certain amount of money for immigration detention and administration goes above and beyond and detains more people than they have a budget for and goes back to Congress with a bigger bill next time around,” Gruberg said. “That’s also concerning for LGBTQ folks because we’re hearing stories of particularly trans asylum seekers and other people fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation and gender identity being detained for long periods of time and in really terrible conditions.”
Gruberg added, “A number of reports from DHS’ own investigative body, the office of the inspector general, found just horrific conditions in immigration detention, pretty frequent waivers of detention standards and a complete disregard for the basic protections for health and safety that do exist. For LGBTQ immigrants, they’re 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in detention and the lack of access to adequate medical care is woeful.”
“For LGBTQ immigrants, they’re 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in detention and the lack of access to adequate medical care is woeful.”
In 2017, Laura Monterrosa, a queer asylum seeker from El Salvador, said she was sexually abused by a guard in a Texas immigration jail and out in solitary confinement for retaliation as a result of her accusation. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) then requested data from ICE on sexual assault in immigration jails for fiscal year 2017. That data showed that although LGBTQ people were only 0.14 percent of people jailed by ICE, they made up 12 percent of the people who said they experienced sexual assault and sexual abuse while in jail.
The Trump administration did propose increases in discretionary funding for HIV programs, with $291 million dedicated to these efforts in the next fiscal year. Experts on the HIV epidemic say that although it’s a significant sum to focus on efforts to end HIV, it is not enough and shouldn’t come at the expense of other programs that also play an important role in ending HIV. The administration’s budget proposes to cut $1.35 billion from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and $392 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Daniel Tietz, former CEO of Bailey House, a nonprofit that provides supportive housing for people living with HIV and AIDS, said 10 years is not a reasonable timeline with this level of funding. People living with HIV also need access to health care, housing, and food — the very things the administration proposes to cut or restrict.
“Housing is health care, but they propose a $63 million cut to [Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS]. Food is health care and yet they propose to cut SNAP benefits or condition SNAP and Medicaid on work in ways that really turn people off of their health care, so who will pay then?” Tietz said. “They propose giving some of this money to community health centers and that’s a great thing, but many of these community health centers already live in the edge of insolvency and particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid, the very states that they’re targeting.”
Tietz added that the very people for whom the administration has shown antipathy are the groups most affected by or at risk in this epidemic. According to the CDC, black gay and bisexual men are more affected by HIV than any other group in the United States and accounted for 26 percent of more than 38,000 new HIV diagnoses in 2017. Current estimates show 22 percent to 28 percent of trans women are living with HIV.
“We’re talking generally about communities of color and low-income and marginalized communities of color, even more especially black and Latino men and transgender women,” he said.
“And at a time they’re talking about this effort, they’re also demonizing folks like us. The very communities most at risk are feeling very stigmatized by the kind of statements coming out of this administration and yet they are thinking folks are going to engage, which seems counter-intuitive.”