A bill approved in a preliminary vote by the D.C. Council on Tuesday to provide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ seniors and people with HIV in long-term care facilities will be put on hold until at least next year because the city doesn’t have the funds to implement it, according to a fiscal impact statement for the bill.
The Council voted unanimously on Sept. 22 to approve in a first reading vote the Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020. The Council is expected to approve the bill in a second and final vote on Oct. 6 and Mayor Muriel Bowser is expected to sign the measure.
The bill, which has the strong support of LGBTQ rights advocates, calls for amending the city’s Human Rights Act of 1977 to establish an “LGBTQ and HIV long-term care bill of rights to provide rights and legal protections for LGBTQ residents and residents with HIV in long-term care.”
The bill also calls for amending the District of Columbia Act on Aging to require the mayor to interpret the term “greatest social need” under the federal Older Americans Act of 1965 “to include LGBTQ seniors and seniors with HIV for the purpose of allocating [federal] funds to the District.”
The measure was co-introduced by 10 of the Council’s 13 members in January 2019 and co-sponsored by two others, indicating it has overwhelming support.
But in a July 27 Fiscal Impact Statement, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt, who provides fiscal impact statements for all bills considered by the Council, stated that funds “are not sufficient” in the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget and the fiscal year 2021 through 2024 fiscal year budgets to implement the LGBTQ seniors bill.
DeWitt says in his fiscal impact statement that bill will require $109,000 to implement in fiscal year 2021 and $434,000 over the 4-year period that’s part of the city’s financial plan approved as part of the D.C. budget.
He said those funds were needed to pay for at least one new full-time employee at the D.C. Office of Human Rights to enforce the bill’s nondiscrimination provisions for LGBTQ seniors and to oversee the bill’s requirement that long-term care facilities provide LGBTQ related training for staff members that interact with LGBTQ residents of the facilities.
Lindsey Walton, a spokesperson for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), told the Blade on Tuesday that unfunded bills can be adopted by the Council but the legislation cannot be added to the official D.C. Code until funding for the bill is identified. She said the funding can only be appropriated through the city’s annual budget process, which will take place next spring, or by a “mayoral reprogramming.”
Gay rights advocate Mike Silverstein, a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and a member of the citywide ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he would look into whether advocates should call on the mayor’s office to consider transferring funds for implementation of the LGBTQ senior’s bill from other city programs.
“We need to find a way to find that money,” Silverstein said.