Story at a glance
- The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced people indoors and businesses, schools and facilities to close.
- Pandemics such as these disproportionately affect the most marginalized and vulnerable groups of people.
- A new research brief by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation shows the unique vulnerabilities the LGBTQ+ community now faces.
As the spread of COVID-19 continues to sweep the world, there are no lives that remain untouched in some way. From the initial restrictions on bars and restaurants to where we are presently: cities like New York and the entire state of California on total lockdown, the virus has continued to alter each of our lives.
From a financial standpoint, there are no people more at risk of serious disruptions than nonsalaried workers who are now out of a job, as well as marginalized communities such as those who identify as LGBTQ+. A new report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation shows just how the LGBTQ+ community will be faced with unique challenges due to its economic and health care situations, providing critical data for policymakers and community advocates working to address the health and safety needs of the community during this crisis.
An uncertain time
Little is known about COVID-19’s impact on the global economy, and the extent of the virus’ economic impact on LGBTQ+ people, as well as the ways in which LGBTQ+ people are at increased risk of infection and health complications, are mostly unknown.
HRC Foundation’s new brief explains just how the coronavirus can adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of the LGBTQ+ community at disproportionate rates, showing that they are more likely than the general population to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid medical leave, and basic necessities during the pandemic.
“We are facing a global public health crisis, and as in all emergencies, the most marginalized are at increased risk,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Many in the LGBTQ community may lack the resources to effectively combat COVID-19, lacking access to paid sick leave or living without health coverage, and are more likely to work in an industry that has been most affected by the pandemic, putting them in greater economic jeopardy or increasing their exposure to the virus.”
David says that it is also critical to understand the challenges facing LGBTQ+ youth who may have been sent home from school to face family rejection, or the LGBTQ+ senior citizen who is more likely to be living alone during this crisis.
HRC Foundation’s brief shows that LGBTQ+ people are more vulnerable to the health risks of the virus — they’re less likely to have health coverage, are more likely to smoke and have asthma, as well as a variety of chronic illnesses. They’re also statistically more likely to work jobs in highly affected industries such as food preparation and service occupations, often with more exposure and higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis. Only 29 percent of respondents to HRC Foundation’s 2018 LGBTQ Paid Leave Survey said their employer offers paid leave specifically for medical reasons and that they were eligible to use it.
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A disproportionate number of homeless youth also identify as LGBTQ+ at 40 percent, and 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people live below the poverty line. LGBTQ+ young adults also had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.
The consequences of homelessness, particularly for LGBTQ+ youth, are far reaching and can last a lifetime, reports HRC. Homelessness is harmful to mental and physical health, and youth who are homeless are at an increased risk for sexual abuse and exploitation, chemical and alcohol dependency, social stigma and discrimination. These youth also experience lower levels of long-term educational attainment — placing them at an even greater disadvantage when they enter the job market.
These numbers and their implications are especially unsettling during a time when last week, across the United States, unemployment claims increased more than 33 percent from 211,000 claims to 281,000. Two days ago, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that a lack of action could lead to a 20 percent unemployment rate.
How to support the LGBTQ+ community
Normal means of helping out the community, such as volunteering or patronizing shops and restaurants owned by members of the LGBTQ+ community, are virtually impossible now that local governments are instituting “shelter in place” rules — but there are still plenty of ways you can show your support.
Donating to trusted, national nonprofits is always a good start. Organizations like HRC and others rely on your donations to continue to fund important research and provide support to those in need. Specific health-related organizations like the National LGBT Cancer Network, GMHC and Queer Health Access could especially find use for donations right now.
Another great way to support your local LGBTQ+ businesses right now is through the purchasing of gift cards and online merchandise. You can check out helpful resources like the Small Business Association and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to find which businesses near you are queer-owned.
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