Health Care: The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. Last year 84% of enrollees were eligible for discounted rates. Open enrollment began on November 1st and runs through December 15th in most states. This is a shorter enrollment period than in previous years so if you don’t act by December 15th, you may not get coverage for 2018 unless you quality for a special enrollment period or live in a state that has extended deadlines. Get your questions answered by an LGBTQ-friendly advisor at OUT2Enroll.org and #GetCovered.
Tax Reform: On Thursday November 2nd, Americans got their first look at the administration’s long-anticipated tax reform plan entitled “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Don’t be fooled by the wording of this plan. It will harm the very people who are being promised relief, including many in the LGBT community. According to the Tax Policy Center, the cuts as proposed would slightly reduce taxes for low- and middle-income households, but over time only the top 1% of income earners in the United States would receive over 80% of the benefits. The plan adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit -- which will force deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security down the road. Other cuts include the elimination of state and local tax income and sales deduction, deductions for student loan interest, and tax breaks for medical expenses. The Work Opportunity Credit which encourages businesses to hire veterans would be eliminated. So would the New Markets Credit, which encourages investment in poor areas. Republicans are hoping to move this quickly through the House, with committee action penciled in for next week. Call your representatives and tell them you are strongly opposed to the tax reform released by the House Republicans on November 2nd: (202) 224-3121.
The Opioid Crisis: Opioid misuse has risen to the level of an epidemic. Preliminary data indicates that in 2016, more people died from opioid overdoses than the combined number of people killed by gun homicide and in car accidents. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that LGBT adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to have used an illicit drug in the past year. Substance abuse is also 20 to 30 percent higher among LGBT youth compared to the general population. Last week the President declared the opioid epidemic a nationwide public health emergency. However this designation does little more than shift grant money away from other public health needs, such as combating HIV/AIDS. This could be a step in the wrong direction, considering the next HIV epidemic in America is likely brewing in rural areas suffering under the opioid crisis. If you or someone you love is in need of an LGBT-friendly opioid addiction treatment center, call Drug Abuse.com’s 24-hour hotline: 877-960-2901.
DACA/Dream Act 2017: Last week Center Action Network asked your community centers to sign a letter in support of passing the Dream Act by the end of 2017. Over 80 centers signed on and we made history! Never before have so many LGBT community centers signed on to one letter. There are over 75,000 LGBT Dreamers - 36,000 of which have participated in the DACA program. For LGBT recipients, the consequences of rescinding DACA are particularly dire since they would be at risk of not only being deported to countries they haven’t set foot in since they were children but where their lives could be in jeopardy. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in nearly 80 countries worldwide. Karen from CenterLink’s own Tacoma Rainbow Center shared her story with Center Action Network. She told us how it feels to be queer, undocumented, and a DACA recipient. Read more about Karen here.
Religious Freedom: In early October, Attorney General Sessions issued guidance giving significant leeway to federal staff, recipients of federal grants, and government contractors to seek religious exemptions from federal laws that prevent discrimination. At the same time the Administration proposed new rules that would let employers back out of covering free birth control in the health insurance plans they offer to employees if it is against their moral or religious beliefs. Movement Advancement Project’s report Tipping the Scales: The Coordinated Attack on LGBT People, Women, Parents, Children, and Health Care analyzes the mounting legislation and litigation across the country orchestrated to undermine nondiscrimination protections, comprehensive health care, and the regulations administering social and public services by inserting exemptions into the laws based on religious or moral beliefs. Freedom of religion is a core American value, but religious freedom was not meant to allow people to discriminate, harm, or impose their religion on others. To learn more about the 62.4. million people who rely on no-cost birth control visit keepbcfree.com and use the hashtag #HandsOffMyBC to support the cause on social media. You can also share this graphic on social media to remind people religious freedom is not a #LicenseToDiscriminate.