March 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
USAID urged to use COVID relief funds to support LGBTQ people abroad

WASHINGTON — Three members of Congress have urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to use some of the money it received from the COVID-19 relief bill to support LGBTQ people around the world who the pandemic has made even more vulnerable.

U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in a letter they sent to Acting USAID Administrator Gloria Steele on March 24 note her agency received “approximately” $10 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Biden signed into law earlier this month.

“We write to you to request that particular attention be paid in your deployment of these additional funds to reach the most vulnerable populations,” reads the letter. “From the devastating experience of the first year of this pandemic, we know that traditionally marginalized communities including LGBTQI+, people with disabilities, and racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

The letter notes the pandemic “has exacerbated the inequalities and vulnerabilities that LGBTQI+ people in particular face worldwide.”

“Amidst ongoing lockdowns, many LGBTQI+ people have lost their livelihoods, are at increased risk for gender-based violence, food insecurity, and homelessness, and face even greater barriers to services, including access to sexual and reproductive health care,” it reads. “In some countries, those in the LGBTQI+ community have been scapegoated and falsely charged for spreading COVID-19, while other governments have used COVID-19 lock down measures as an excuse to violate the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and other vulnerable groups. LGBTQI+ people have also been excluded from many relief efforts due to binary gendered approaches to distribution, as well as a reliance on unsafe spaces for LGBTQI+ people, non-inclusive definitions of ‘family,’ and discrimination by relief workers.”

Transgender activists in Latin America have criticized gender-based rules that officials in Panama, Colombia and Peru implemented in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Activists in South Korea formed a task force to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination related to the pandemic. The letter that Titus, Castro and Cicilline sent to Steele notes OutRight Action International in April 2020 launched a fund to help vulnerable LGBTQ communities during the pandemic.

“As COVID-19 has demonstrated, current structures and systems of relief have allowed LGBTQI+ people to fall through the cracks, and it is only with long-term, comprehensive, sustainable measures that those in the LGBTQI+ community will not face disproportionate impacts in the face of disaster and crisis,” reads the letter. “Unfortunately, of all the supplemental COVID-19 relief funding administered by USAID, zero was allocated for LGBTQI+ organizations or populations.”

Biden last month issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

A USAID spokesperson confirmed to the Blade the agency has received the letter.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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