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CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers is asking Congress to take note of the work LGBTQ community centers do across the country and to remember them for funding in future stimulus packages. CenterLink represents more than 250 LGBTQ community center in the U.S. These centers provide vital information, education, and social and health services to almost 40,000 people each week — or over 1.9 million people annually.
A letter signed by over 160 LGBT community centers was sent to House and Senate leaders last week. It asked them to include nonprofits who serve the LGBT population in future relief packages.
“The first stimulus package was a good start toward recognizing and addressing the needs nonprofits face now, but the reality is that more will be necessary,” said Denise Spivak, CenterLink’s interim CEO. “There is an even greater demand for organizations such as LGBT centers to provide ongoing services to the most vulnerable populations within their communities. Centers across the nation continue to offer food, medical care, housing and other basic necessities during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this moment, the need for services has never been greater.”
Spivak said there is, and will be for months to come, a critical need for the support that is best provided by hundreds of LGBT organizations, big and small.
“Our community is more likely to be discriminated against when it comes to things like housing, employment and health care, and there are no comprehensive federal protections for LGBT people,” she said. “Our community centers are a safe place for LGBT people to go to receive vital information and resources, education, and social and health services. The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of people without employment, health insurance, and a way to put food on their tables. Our centers are a lifeline for their communities, distributing nonperishable food and personal care items, assisting with applications for unemployment and benefits, and providing medical services to people at no cost.”
In this time of crisis, Spivak said that many centers have shifted their focus to COVID-19 relief.
“So many of them have also pivoted to virtually delivering mental health services and being a social outlet by hosting support groups and online peer ‘gatherings’ to give those who need it a way to connect,” Spivak said. “We don’t know how long the current situation will last, but LGBT community centers are committed to supporting their communities in whatever ways they are needed.”
Congress, said Spivak, must include additional funding in future stimulus packages in order for LGBT centers to continue to provide life-saving services to communities.
“We have had conversations with several lawmakers, including Sen. Gillibrand in New York, Sen. Toomey in Pennsylvania and Sens. Harris and Feinstein in California. LGBT community centers across the country are contacting their lawmakers to ask for additional stimulus funding and bringing CenterLink into their conversations,” she said. “The lawmakers we’ve had contact with have been extremely supportive and open to further discussions.”
As for the chances of LGBTQ community centers actually being included in future stimulus packages, “That’s a difficult question, because there are so many businesses and organizations vying for the same money,” Spivak said.
“As soon as the CARES Act was passed, LGBT community centers everywhere submitted applications for funding,” she said. “Some have received money and others have been unable to get past the application submission process because the federal assistance websites are getting so much traffic.”
“On Thursday morning, the $349 billion emergency small business lending program officially ran out of funds for the Paycheck Protection Program,” she added. “There is a lot of talk about more stimulus funding in the works, but no one knows yet what that looks like or who will be eligible. We felt it was important to make Congress aware of the need for nonprofit-specific funding for organizations such as LGBT community centers.”