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Time to invest in people

February 13, 2012

The budget gets a lot of attention in Washington, D.C. And we’re about to launch into a whole new season of it with a renewed sense of urgency carried by the weight of a presidential election year. Today President Obama unveiled his proposed FY 2013 budget. Over the next few weeks, we can expect posturing over the 2013 fiscal year budget from politicians, among others. As progressive-minded LGBT advocates, what should we be paying attention to during these public debates?

First and foremost, we believe this country needs a budget that maintains and supports health and dignity. With a larger percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty today than any point since 1994 now is not the time to pull away the programs that support programs and services that nourish this country. The Task Force calls for a budget based on investment in human infrastructure and one that attends to the needs of our most vulnerable populations.

Since 2008, the percentage of people living in poverty has gone from 13.2 to 14.3, which means that not only has the absolute number of people living in poverty increased but so has the percent of the population.

Yet despite the increase in poverty, our elected officials and the national dialogue are debating how much to cut from programs serving more and more people living in poverty. LGBT people and our families face significant disadvantages. We live with the consequences of a lifetime of systematic discrimination and persecution not only in the form of loss of dignity but also in the form of fewer resources; and this is especially true for LGBT people and families of color.

Based on 2000 Census Bureau data, the Williams Institute estimated in a 2009 report that 21 percent of male same-sex couples raising children and 20 percent of female same-sex couples raising children were living in poverty. This means that our families suffer poverty at higher rates than non-LGBT families.

The programs designed to help the most vulnerable are not extravagant. They include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or what was formerly known as the “Food Stamp Program.” They include low-income housing assistance and funds for community health centers for primary and preventive care.

These programs aren’t just abstract lines on a budget. They help real people. Sometimes they are our neighbors, often times they are members of our family. With the way they safety net programs are vilified it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really at stake. These programs can mean the difference between having adequate food for one’s family or resources to cover essential medicines. In the 2013 budget, funds are proposed to serve nearly 21 million patients.

We hear calls to rebuild the infrastructure of our country. We know that there is plenty to rebuild and restore. We call on President Obama and Congress to commit to investing in human infrastructure, which includes education, health and a basic standard of living.

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