June 23, 2020 at 10:14 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBTQ groups lower D.C. budget request
D.C. Budget, divorce, Phil Mendelson, gay news, Washington Blade
A coalition of groups in the city has asked D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson to approve $10.6 million for LGBTQ-related new programs. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A coalition of 10 local LGBTQ or LGBTQ supportive organizations that called on Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council in January to approve $22.6 million in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget for LGBTQ related programs has lowered its request to $10.6 million.

In a June 4 joint letter to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), the groups said that due to the city’s severe budget shortfall brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, the groups had pared down their original request by just under $12 million to ask for $10.6 million.

“In January, our Coalition advised the Mayor on important investments for the LGBTQ+ community in the FY 2021 Budget,” the groups stated in the joint letter. “Due to COVID-19, the Mayor had to make sacrifices and tough decisions and none of us envy the position she was placed in,” the letter says.

“However, members of the LGBTQ + community have continuously had to make sacrifices and tough decisions their entire lives,” the letter continues. “And, to continue to put their needs on the chopping block will only further put their lives and those of friends, family, and others at risk.”

The letter lists five specific requests for funding in the original budget proposal that the groups say they have dropped in their revised proposal. Among them was a request for $3.5 million for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to establish a competitive grants program aimed at local LGBTQ organizations that provide social services for LGBTQ people.

Also removed from the revised request were calls for $700,000 from the D.C. Office of Aging and Community Living for a city community dining and cultural competence program for LGBTQ seniors and a $300,000 request of reserved funds for the Capital Trans Pride celebration.

Attached to the coalition’s letter to Mendelson was a 14-page outline of 11 specific funding requests for LGBTQ related programs in the revised proposal whose funds would come from at least seven D.C. government agencies totaling $10.6 million.

“We have been in constant contact with members and staff regarding these requests,” said coalition spokesperson Japer Bowles in a June 8 email to the Washington Blade. He was referring to the coalition’s interaction with staff and members of the D.C. Council to push for the funding requests.

“We look forward to getting these critical programs funded,” Bowles said.

But Bowles and other members of the coalition had not responded to a request by the Blade earlier this week for an update on whether members or the chairpersons of at least six D.C. Council committees that oversee the budgets of the agencies from which the LGBTQ coalition is seeking the funds are likely to approve the funding requests.

All Council committees were expected to vote on the budgets of the city agencies they oversee by the end of this week. The Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all Council members, and the full 13-member Council were expected to vote on their final approval of the city budget by the end of July.

The organizations making up the LGBTQ coalition include the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s Rainbow Caucus, Casa Ruby, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, SMYAL, Whitman-Walker Health, Capital Pride Alliance, The DC Center for the LGBT Community, HIPS, Wanda Alston Foundation, and Rainbow Families.

Among the new proposals in the coalition’s 11 specific budget requests is a $345,000 funding allocation from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development for an “LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Synergy Home Sharing Pilot Program.” The program calls for 12 young LGBTQ adults ages 18 to 24 to be housed within the homes of 12 older LGBTQ adults ages 60 and older who live alone and have spare living space.

“Through the Pilot Program, a participating older adult homeowner will hire a participating young adult to perform basic housekeeping tasks several hours a week in exchange for occupancy within the older adults’ home,” the program’s proposal states. “The Pilot Program is designed with special consideration towards low-to-moderate-income LGBTQ+ older adults and at-risk LGBTQ+ young adults, with particular focus on those who identify as transgender persons of color, and aims to alleviate a number of key disadvantages experienced by these individuals…”

David Meadows, a spokesperson for D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who chairs the Council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, said Bonds strongly supports the proposed pilot program but was uncertain whether there would be sufficient funds available to cover it in the mayor’s budget proposal submitted to the Council earlier this year.

Among the other LGBTQ budget related requests by the coalition include these proposals:

• $630,000 added to the budget of the D.C. Office of Human Rights for six additional full-time employees to enhance OHR’s efforts to address anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

• A waiver of $400,000 in fees the city has charged the Capital Pride Alliance each year in recent years for street closings and other city services to enable the Capital Pride Parade, Festival and other Pride related events totake place in public spaces.

• A $700,000 allocation for the D.C. Department of Health and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) for the implementation of the LGBTQ+ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018 that the city has not yet implemented.

• $20,000 for “rent abatement” for the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, which rents space in the city’s Reeves Municipal Building at 2000 14th Street, N.W.

• $480,125 in additional funds for the D.C. Department of Human Services to fund “Programming to Support Transgender, Nonbinary, and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Who are Homeless or at risk of Homelessness.”

• $480,000 to fund 20 city housing vouchers for low-income LGBTQ+ seniors struggling to avoid homelessness.

• A $350,000 increase in the Department of Employment Services budget to establish a “Trans tech social Hub” to help people who identify as transgender and queer to “combat employment discrimination and train for legal employment.”

• $5 million for a city procurement contract for a Transgender Employment, 24-Hour Wrap Around Services and Technical Trade Skills Academy to be operated by Casa Ruby. The program’s objective is to provide members of the transgender and LGBTQ community easier access to employment and “better lives.”

• $2.25 million annually for a total of $6.75 million for a three-year contract funded by the D.C. Department of Health for the sex worker advocacy and social services group HIPS to expand HIPS’ harm reduction and health services network program, which provides services for “homeless transgender and queer populations” in the city.

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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