Coronavirus Finance Troubles Have Hit LGBTQ People Extra Hard

Queer people are twice as likely to report being much worse off now than they were in 2019, in the face of the pandemic shutting down most businesses.
April 23, 2020, 7:01pm
ARC_Shutterstock_471992701_Folded_stack_of_money_VICE_RF
Shutterstock/Carolyn Franks

A new report finds that LGBTQ people are disproportionately likely to have been economically impacted by COVID-19.

A survey of 1,000 U.S. adults released Thursday found that LGBTQ people were 36 percent more likely than the general population to have lost work after cities and states across the country shut down nonessential businesses to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Thirty percent of queer and trans respondents surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign and the research analytics group PSB said their work hours have been reduced, as opposed to 22 percent of respondents overall.

The report found that LGBTQ people have been devastated by the slowdown resulting from COVID-19 across all metrics measured. This group was almost twice as likely as the general public to say they are “much worse off” financially than they were in 2019, and twice as likely to believe that they will still be reeling from the economic impact a year from now.

Forty-two percent of LGBTQ people said they cut their household budgets in response to the pandemic, as opposed to 30 percent of overall respondents. Queer and trans people were also more likely to worry about overdrafting their bank accounts and to ask for rent deferrals.

HRC President Alphonso David said the survey, which was conducted between April 15 and 16, is “more proof that the most marginalized communities are the most at risk” from COVID-19. Last month, the nationwide advocacy group predicted that LGBTQ people’s finances would be uniquely affected by the pandemic, as they disproportionately work in industries that have been virtually shut down by the virus, such as restaurants, bars, retail, and other service sector jobs.

“We have seen the health impact of this virus on communities of color, and we now have the data to show how the LGBTQ community is struggling,” David said in a statement to VICE.

These findings square with earlier reporting from The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBTQ think tank at the University of California Los Angeles, showing high numbers of unemployment claims among queer and trans people following COVID-19. Around 8.9 percent of all workers who filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21 identify as LGBTQ, despite Gallup surveys showing that this population consistently makes up around 4.1 percent of American adults.

The Williams Institute also estimated that around 6.4 million single LGBTQ adults will receive financial assistance under the CARES Act, in which individuals who earned less than $75,000 during their last year of tax returns are set to receive one-time stimulus payments of $1,200. An estimated 324,000 same-sex couples also qualify.

Do you have a coronavirus story you want to tell? Fill out this form or reach out on Signal at (310) 614-3752 and VICE will be in touch.

Advocates said these numbers are an illustration that the federal government must do more to recognize the particular challenges faced by the community during the pandemic. This week 183 LGBTQ groups, including Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called on Congressional leaders to ensure that nondiscrimination protections are included in future COVID-19 relief packages. The House is soon set to vote on a $484 billion bill aimed at hospitals and small businesses, but the legislation passed by the Senate does not include protections from discrimination in health, housing, or other service settings.

In the letter to Congress, signatories warned that the crisis would be “exacerbating existing inequalities” without federal action. Twenty-eight states in the U.S. lack their own statewide LGBTQ civil rights laws, meaning that queer and trans people could be legally denied critical COVID-19 relief.

“If someone like me, a woman with short hair who dresses in more masculine attire was laid off their job tomorrow, they could legally be turned away from a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or in some cases government programs because of gaps in our nation's civil rights laws,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ+ Task Force Action Fund. “All of who we are should be protected from discrimination no matter where we go, so that those who need help the most get the support they need for themselves and their families.”

But LGBTQ advocates said more data is needed to truly understand the impact of COVID-19 on queer and transgender individuals. The report, for instance, didn’t ask respondents about race or gender identity because of the small sample size, despite the fact that trans people were four times more likely to live in poverty than the average person even before the pandemic hit.

Given that Black Americans make up an estimated 34 percent of deaths from COVID-19, despite accounting for just 13 percent of the overall population, trans people of color are likely to be doubly affected.

“As we get more data, we’re getting a better glimpse into the problem and the impact on the community,” Ty Cobb, senior director of strategic initiatives and research, told VICE. “But we still don’t have enough research and we need more so that we can make sure the care packages going through our federal government are getting to community members that are most impacted.”

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.