This week, President Obama introduce a series of economic proposals during his annual State of the Union speech. Here's how five of them would impact the LGBTQ community:
1. New Child Care Credit
President Obama proposed a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year for families with young children. According to a report from the Williams Institute, an estimated 3 million LGBTQ Americans have had a child. Nearly half of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer women and a fifth of gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer men are raising a child under the age of 18. These members of our community are struggling. Single LGBTQ adults raising children are three times as likely as non-LGBTQ individuals to report incomes near the poverty level. Married same-sex couples raising children are twice as likely to be living near the poverty level as their different-sex couple counterparts. The Child Tax Credit that is currently in place lifts more than 3 million people out of poverty each year, and reduces the severity of poverty for almost 14 million more. In short, this measure is likely to significantly reduce the economic strain faced by LGBTQ families.
2. Paid Sick Leave
As President Obama explained in the State of the Union, 43 million U.S. workers have no paid sick leave. Many of these workers are in minimum wage or low-wage positions. Of the 5.4 million estimated LGBTQ workers, at least 750,000 work in minimum wage jobs that are unlikely to offer paid sick leave. Hundreds of thousands more LGBTQ people work in low paying jobs that have no benefits package. Paid sick leave will mean these workers can avoid having to choose between being able to pay their rent and taking care of their bodies.
3. Equal Pay for Women
President Obama's call for a bill that would equalize pay for men and women is particularly relevant for the LGBTQ community. Women in same-sex couples earn less than men in same-sex or different-sex relationships. The earnings of women who are transgender fall by almost a third after their transition. Lesbian and bisexual women are twice as likely to be food stamp recipients as the general population. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women need equal pay!
4. Community College
I know personally the positive impact that the President's community college proposal would make. At the age of 25, after a series of low-paying jobs at restaurants, factories, fast-food joints, and the like, I finally decided to go to college. The local community college was relatively inexpensive -- only a few thousand dollars a year -- and the financial aid department assured me that I could take out loans to cover the cost. I took the plunge, attending full time and loading all of my classes into two weekdays so I could continue to work my 40-hour-a-week job. It was tough, but I loved it. Holyoke Community College (HCC) had a program that offered reduced tuition for folks who transferred to the state four-year college. I took advantage of that as well. I went on to get a Master's Degree in Accounting and eventually a law degree from Georgetown. I wouldn't have had any of these opportunities if it hadn't been for my local community college. The President's proposal to lower the cost of community college to zero would open doors to thousands of LGBTQ students who can't afford even the few thousand dollars a year that schools like HCC currently charge.
5. Closing Tax Loopholes for the Wealthy
Our community is disproportionately poor. Transgender people are four times more likely to be living in extreme poverty (under $10,000 a year) than the general population. Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be poor than heterosexual women. Programs aimed at ending income inequality are likely to be particularly beneficial to our community.