Fiscal Deal Creates Cliff Hanger for LGBT Centers

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cliff_smBy: Lisa Keen/Keen News Service– 

LGBT service groups and others who depend on federal funding for a portion of their work can breathe a sigh of relief – for about two months. Congress sent President Obama a bill Tuesday night (January 1) to satisfy part of its mandate to address the nation’s growing debt.

The House, after 11 p.m. Tuesday night, passed a bill that was approved by the Senate at 2 a.m. that same day, extending tax cuts to most Americans while increasing taxes for taxpayers earning more than $400,000 per year or $450,000 per couple.

But the bill was clearly aimed at calming the Wednesday morning stock market reaction to the Congress’s failure to approve an adequate measure against the country’s budget crisis. It did not address how the federal government would cut spending and, instead, agreed to come up with another bill to do that by March 1.

Cece Cox, chief executive officer of the Dallas Resource Center, the fourth largest LGBT center in the country, says the deal struck Tuesday night “helps us escape the immediate cuts but doesn’t mean we’ve escaped them permanently.” The Dallas center, which is already into the second quarter of its current budget year, will now start running projections, said Cox, to anticipate what might yet come from Congress.

“Running projections can’t be done with much scientific certainty at this point because who knows,” said Cox. “But we can run some scenarios of things that could happen and think through how we would continue to function and provide services.”

Thirty-five percent of the nation’s more than 200 centers for LGBT people are non-profit groups that rely on federal grants to fund more than a quarter of their program expenses, according to a report in June from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). The centers provide programs for young people, seniors, people with HIV, and others to address such concerns as – coming out support, suicide prevention, and addictions with sensitivity to sexual orientation.

Lorri Jean, chief executive officer of the nation’s largest LGBT community and health center – the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center—says that, if the federal government does make dramatic cuts in spending, it could much less funding for the LGBT centers. And that, she said, would come at a time when cuts to federal agencies would likely push more and more LGBT people to seek out the services at their local centers.

But Tuesday night’s passage of a temporary bill at least means that the automatic, across-the-board and deep cuts in federal funding have been stalled, for two months. Dawn Harbatkin, executive director of the Lyon-Martin Health Services center in San Francisco, estimated the cost of such automatic cuts would have amounted to about $167 million for the nation’s LGBT community health centers. A report from several national LGBT groups with the Center for American Progress estimated the automatic cuts would have cost the Ryan White HIV program about $196 million of federal funding in the first year, leaving as many as 9,000 patients without access to vital medications.

The bill passed by Congress, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, extends tax rate reductions that were passed in 2001 under President George W. Bush to the end of 2013. It also requires Congress to take up a “tax reform bill” no later than April 30 to create “a fairer, simpler, flatter tax code.”

In other Congressional news of potential interest to the LGBT community, House Republicans have named Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) to head up the subcommittee that oversees the appropriations for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. The Human Rights Campaign rated Kingston’s Congressional voting record a zero. He replaces another HRC zero-rated member, Rep. Dennis Rehberg of Montana.

According to last June’s MAP report on funding of LGBT centers, the majority of federal grants to LGBT centers were awarded by HHS.

© 2013 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

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