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Supporting Low-Income LGBTQ People During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Thursday, April 2, 2020
Hosted by Center for American Progress
[Online Edited Webinar Remarks from Tyrone Hanley, NCLR Senior Policy Counsel]

Hello, my name is Tyrone Hanley. I am Senior Policy Counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Co-Coordinator of the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network. I use he/him pronouns.

My presentation is on how to ensure federal COVID-19 assistance reaches low-income LGBTQ people and families. It is only meant to be an overview. I encourage you to check out additional resources for more information. Here are my recommendations for advocates.

1. Inform LGBTQ constituents of paid sick and family/medical leave and unemployment insurance.

  • The second (Families First Act) and third (CARES Act) federal COVID-19 relief packages provide more workers with access to paid sick and family/medical leave and unemployment insurance.
  • Many people are likely unaware of what relief is available to them if they are forced to take sick leave or are laid off due to the pandemic.
  • The National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network will be hosting webinars on workers’ rights during the COVID-19 crisis and other relevant topics. If you want to get connected to the Network, email me at thanley@nclrights.org.
  • For resources on paid leave, visit paidleaveforall.org.
  • For resources on unemployment insurance, visit nelp.org.

2. Conduct outreach and provide enrollment assistance for LGBTQ people and families for programs such as SNAP (a.k.a. food stamps) and childhood nutrition programs.

  • The Families First Act waives the 3-month time limit for SNAP for adults without dependents during the crisis and provides states with more flexibility for nutritional assistance programs. We must make sure states maximize this opportunity and that people are being informed that food assistance is available.
  • Many states are applying for waivers that make it easier for people to access SNAP and other nutrition programs. We should use this moment as an opportunity to highlight how reduced administrative burdens – such as online applications and certifications, online shopping and delivery, and the waiving of the congregate requirement for the National School Lunch Program/Summer Food Service Program – make these programs more efficient and effective. With advocacy, we can make sure that greater flexibility in the administration of these nutrition programs stays in place after the pandemic is over.
  • frac.org is a great resource for more information on nutrition programs. You can also visit www.benefits.gov.

3. Engage in outreach to low-income LGBTQ people to help them obtain their CARES ACT stimulus payments — generally $1,200 for adults and $500 per child under age 17.

  • The Williams Institute estimates that 6.4 million single LGBT adults with an annual income of up to $75,000 will receive the full payout of $1,200, and 324,000 same-sex married couples with a combined annual income of up to $150,000 will receive the full payout of $2,400.
  • We must help qualifying people who have not filed income taxes in 2018 or 2019 file a simple tax form. Otherwise, they will not get the money they have a right to receive.
  • While the law instructs the government to engage in an outreach campaign and provide notice to those who are eligible for the payments, we know too many people will fall through the cracks. We need an outreach campaign like those done for the Affordable Care Act and Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure people are getting their payments.

4. Qualifying nonprofits should apply for Small Business Administration forgivable loans to help ensure their programs and services continue.  

  • LGBTQ organizations and other nonprofits are already taking fundraising hits due to the pandemic.
  • These forgivable loans will provide some financial support to nonprofits through this time by helping to cover the costs of salaries and benefits.
  • For more details about the various loan options, visit sba.gov or talk to an institution with whom you already have a lending relationship.

5. Encourage supporters to donate to take advantage of tax incentives in the CARES Act for charitable donations made in the tax year 2020.

  • Individuals can deduct up to $300 in donations even if they don’t itemize.
  • As folks receive their stimulus checks, it could be a good time to ask for support to help fund COVID-19 response efforts.

6. In addition to these opportunities, the third federal COVID-19 bill provides increased funding for programs like housing assistance, legal services, Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), and other programs to address the rising needs of low-income people during this time.

  • While more congressional action is needed – such as increasing SNAP benefits, expanding access to relief programs to be more inclusive of more families and workers, freezing rent and utility payments, ending immigration enforcement activities, and releasing incarcerated people – we must do everything in our power to ensure that people get the support that is provided for them in the already-passed federal relief bills.