October 8, 2020 at 10:43 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Council gives final approval to LGBTQ seniors bill
LGBTQ seniors, gay news, Washington Blade

The D.C. Council on Oct. 6 voted unanimously in a second and final vote to approve legislation to provide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ seniors and seniors with HIV who reside in long-term care facilities in the District.

But the Council’s approval came after the city’s Chief Financial Officer issued a fiscal impact statement for the Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020 disclosing that the city doesn’t have the funds in its budget to implement the bill’s main section related to nondiscrimination measures.

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 CFO’s financial impact statement says the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget and the fiscal year 2021 through 2024 planned budgets do not have sufficient funds to implement the section of the bill that would require the D.C. Office of Human Rights to enforce the nondiscrimination provisions in the bill. According to the CFO report, the funds needed for those provisions are $109,000 in fiscal year 2021 and $434,000 over the four-year period that’s part of the city’s financial plan approved as part of the budget. 

LGBTQ activists and city observers have said those figures are relatively small compared to other multi-million dollar city programs. Activists have called on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to take steps to transfer funds to cover the new legislation from other city departments and programs, many of which have unspent funds.

“The amount of money required here is so small that it’s inconceivable they can’t move something around and do it,” said gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mike Silverstein, who’s a member of the ANC’s Rainbow Caucus that has lobbied for the LGBTQ seniors bill.

At the Council’s Oct. 6 virtual meeting Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), who chairs the committee that had jurisdiction over the bill, introduced an amendment to exempt the bill from a city law that prevents an entire bill from being implemented upon final passage if just one part of the bill cannot be immediately funded.

The Council approved the amendment by unanimous voice vote, clearing the way for the section of the bill that enables LGBTQ seniors’ programs to be eligible for federal funds under the Older Americans Act. That section of the bill does not require additional city funds to implement.

The bill will now go to Bowser, who is expected to sign it before it goes to Capitol Hill for the required 30 legislative day review by Congress.

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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