COVID-19, LGBTQ issues, News

Campaign for Southern Equality offers new round of COVID-19 response grants

This week the Campaign for Southern Equality is reopening applications for its COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Program, making available $125,000 in grants for the immediate needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender southerners who are experiencing hardships due to the pandemic.

This round of grant making, applications for which open Thursday, will bring the total funding made available through the program to more than $200,000 since March.

The bulk of the new grant money — more than $100,000 — will be for $100 emergency assistance grants to be used for immediate needs like groceries, rent or mortgage payments and medicine. The program will also provide $500 community response grants and frontline grants to direct service providers that will be larger than $500.

Allocations will concentrate on reaching people of color, transgender people, people in rural areas and with low incomes, the group said in a release Wednesday. That continues a commitment to which the group has adhered in its first three region-wide rounds of grants. According to program info provided by the group, 60 percent of grant recipients have so far been people of color and 72 percent transgender or gender non-conforming. Those who received grants have described losing hourly jobs in the service industry and dealing with chronic health problems or the need to pay for hormone replacement therapy prescriptions.

“With these grants, we are moving money directly to individuals and families, because that is what people have told us will most effectively address their immediate needs,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, in the release. “Right now, LGBTQ people across the South are hurting, worrying about how they’ll make it through the next month financially while also doing everything they can to remain healthy, save their jobs, and care for their loved ones.”

“Folks who have received grants already have let us know that these $100 emergency assistance grants not only allow them to buy food and make rent, but also let them know that there’s a community that cares about them and is ready to support them,” Beach-Ferrara said.

More information on the program, including how to apply, is available here.

COVID-19, LGBTQ issues, News, race

Advocates highlight LGBTQ discrimination, vulnerability in COVID-19 pandemic

With the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule any day on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination, advocates are emphasizing the importance of the decision in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a video press conference Wednesday Equality NC, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, highlighted the increased vulnerability of marginalized people during the pandemic  — particularly transgender people of color.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in several discrimination cases in October and could rule any time between this week and a self-imposed deadline next month.

Ames Simmons, policy director for Equality NC, said the ruling coming in the middle of a pandemic underlines the potentially dire consequences of a loss to the LGBTQ community.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic like we’ve never seen before and it’s important to lift up that members of the LGBTQ community also hold identities that may make us either more vulnerable to COVID-19 or make the effects of COVID-19 worse,” Simmons said.

Ames Simmons, Policy Director for Equality NC, addresses LGBTQ health disparities during Wednesday’s video press conference.

Like many marginalized groups in society, LGBTQ people suffer from higher rates of chronic health conditions that may make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus or make its effects more deadly.

About 1.4 million LGBTQ people in the U.S. live with diabetes, including 81,000 transgender people.

While HIV is not a de facto risk factor for COVID-19, those living with the disease who are immunosuppressed and/or unable to afford or access treatment are at greater risk. Among LGBTQ people in the U.S., HIV impacts 1 in 2 Black cisgender men and transgender women, 1 in 4 Latinx cisgender men and transgender women. About 75,000 transgender people are living with the disease, Simmons said, according to the best available statistics.

“It’s been measured that people in the LGBTQ community are more likely to have asthma,” Simmons said — something from which he himself suffers.

About 21 percent of LGBTQ people are asthmatic as compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ people.

Like many marginalized groups dealing with higher levels of stress, LGBTQ people are more likely to smoke, which leads to  greater respiratory health disparities.

The percentage of smokers in the LGBTQ population is 37% compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ people. That number includes 278,000 transgender people.

There are also estimated to be about 1.7 million LGBTQ people over 50 years old.

Because of historic and ongoing discrimination from the medical community, LGBTQ tend to have a fraught relationship with health providers. They also report having less access to care.

Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC.

In the latest polling, 450,000 transgender adults report they have not gone to the doctor in the last year because they could not afford it.

LGBTQ people are much more likely to be without health insurance — about 17%  of LBGTQ adults are uninsured, compared to 12% of non-LGBTQ people. For transgender adults, that number is 22%.

Among LGBTQ people of color, the numbers are worse — 23% are uninsured. For transgender people of color, it is 32%.

LGBTQ people are also less likely to have paid sick leave (just 29%) or paid family medical leave (20%) that they could use if they or a family member become ill.

The coronavirus and the social distancing necessary to prevent is spread have been devastating for the economy — and particularly for LGBTQ people and industries that most employ them. About 15% of all LGBTQ workers work in restaurants — about 2 million people. More than 5 million LGBTQ people work in the food, hospitality and personal services industries, which have been hardest hit. While about 22% of the general population has reported a cut in work hours, that number among LGBT people is 30%.

Even before the pandemic, many LGBTQ people faced higher rates of unemployment and underemployment. Transgender people were three times as likely to be unemployed.

Those are particularly disturbing health and employment related  numbers for a population that could see a Supreme Court decision taking away what workplace discrimination protections they do now have, Simmons said.

That makes it all the more important to pass federal non-discrimination protections, Simmons said, however the Supreme Court rules on the current cases.

Only 22 states currently have explicit laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. North Carolina is not among them — but neighboring state Virginia is and has recently passed a raft of LGBTQ protections.

Source: Movement Advancement Project


Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, said the lack of state tracking of LGBTQ statistics is itself a great harm to the community.

“The data issue is a major roadblock for a lot of our efforts,” Johnson said. ” It’s practically systematic erasure of our community.”

With many state doing no tracking of things like LGBTQ hate crimes and gathering little to no data on health disparities for LGBTQ people, Johnson said, they are undercounted and underrepresented.

“In almost every system we are an afterthought,” Johnson said.

The looming Supreme Court decisions could be a big turning point in that changing, Johnson said, at least in terms of non-discrimination protections.

It could hardly come at a more vital time, she said.