May 29, 2019 at 12:35 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Council rebuffs LGBT requests for hike in funds
Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, Sheila Alexander-Reid, gay news, Washington Blade, 2020 budget
Sheila Alexander-Reid has not spoken publicly about the request for increased funds for her office. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved a $15.5 billion fiscal year 2020 budget for the city that includes only $250,000 of $3.5 million in additional funds requested by a coalition of 15 LGBT and LGBT-supportive organizations for programs the groups said were important for the LGBT community.

According to a source familiar with the 15 groups, who spoke on condition of not being identified, the Council appears to have added $250,000 to the budget for the D.C. Office of Human Rights rather than the $500,000 requested by the 15 groups.

The source said the Council’s budget as approved on Tuesday did not include any of the $3 million funding increase the groups requested for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

In an “action alert” statement released by the groups on May 17, they called on the LGBT community and its allies to urge the Council to include in its FY 2020 budget a $500,000 increase for the Office of Human Rights to pay for four or five new full-time employees to boost the office’s ability to investigate discrimination cases.

The groups wanted the funds to also cover another new employee to coordinate Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Hate Crimes Response Team.

Concerning the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, the action alert called for urging the Council to add an additional $3 million to the city’s budget to pay for a competitive grants program within the LGBTQ Affairs Office. The groups said in the alert they wanted those funds to enable the office to focus on “health equity to support LGBTQ organizations and one new full-time employee to oversee the program.”

The alert added, “These investments are needed to better protect LGBTQ legal rights and address the health needs of the LGBTQ community.”

Those same requests by the 15 groups were sent in an April 30 joint letter to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), who chairs the Council committee that oversees the LGBTQ Affairs and Human Rights offices.

“[B]oth offices play an important role in the lives of D.C. LGBTQ residents,” the groups told Mendelson and Todd in their joint letter. “Unfortunately, both are underfunded. Thus, we are seeking the following budget allocations be included in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget,” the groups said.

In their letter, the groups outlined the details of the budget requests for $500,000 in new funds for the Office of Human Rights and $3 million in new funds for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which is currently headed by longtime D.C. lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid. Reid has not spoken publicly about the groups’ request for increased funds for her office.

The Blade on Tuesday, following the Council’s approval of the city budget, sent Mendelson’s office a request for comment on the LGBT organizations’ budget request and a request for the reason why the Council turned down the request except for the reported $250,000 increase in the Office of Human Rights’ budget.

Late Wednesday, Mendelson’s office responded by sending a short statement from Mendelson.

“I did not see the April 30 letter and I heard nothing from the advocates in the week’s leading up to the final budget vote,” Mendelson said in his statement. “I, of course, would have been more supportive of the community’s call for more resources,” he said.

The groups making up the 15-member coalition include Capital Pride Alliance, Capital Trans Pride, Casa Ruby, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Federal City Performing Arts Association, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, HIPS, LGBT Bar Association of D.C., Mary’s House for Older Adults, Rainbow Theater Project, SMYAL, Team D.C., and Us Helping Us, People Into Living.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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