Federal budget increases anti-bias, HIV funding

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President Barack Obama meets with senior staff at the White House earlier this year.

President Barack Obama meets with senior staff at the White House earlier this year. – Photo: White House/Pete Souza

The president’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget would provide for a five percent increase at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The budget, discussed during a conference call with White House officials and LGBT reporters Feb. 15, also would provide for an $80 million increase in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Melody Barnes, director of the White House Policy Council, reviewed provisions that specifically impact LGBT Americans, and Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, discussed the provisions in the spending plan that impact people living with HIV/AIDS.

The president’s proposed $3.7 trillion budget, presented to Congress Feb. 14, would include increased funding for the Justice Department’s community relations service to tackle hate crimes, Barnes said.

Additionally, the budget would increase funding by $18 million for the EEOC to enforce anti-discrimination regulations.

Another $132 million is in the budget for Education Department grants to support school campaigns against bullying.

Barnes also said the president remains committed to providing gay federal employees with the same benefits as heterosexual employees, including health, survivor, life insurance and relocation benefits.

The presidential budget maintains funding for HIV/AIDS programs at Housing and Urban Development and Justice. It increases discretionary domestic HIV/AIDS funding at Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs.

“There is much good news for the HIV community in this budget,” Crowley said. “The president is putting forward a responsible budget to enable the nation to win the future. He is also putting forward a budget that clearly demonstrates his determination to help the nation achieve the goals of the national HIV/AIDS strategy.”

The budget, Crowley said, proposes increases in HIV/AIDS funding for the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, including $20.4 million for programs specifically aimed at reaching gay and bisexual men.

“The president stayed true to his commitment,” said Daniel C. Montoya, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington, D.C. “Particularly promising is the increase of $80 million put forward for the nation’s AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which have faced a catastrophic funding crisis, resulting in wait lists and enrollment caps in several states across the country.”

Both Barnes and Crowley alluded to the president’s overall budget and a coming fight over spending priorities in the House and Senate.

“This document is built around the simple idea that we have to live within our means so we can invest in the future,” Crowley said.

The message that accompanied the president’s budget to Congress read, in part, “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices. A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course. That’s why my budget lays out a path for how we can pay down these debts and free the American economy from their burden.”

The president said his top priority is growing the economy and spurring job creation, and that the budget is a “roadmap not just for how we should invest in our economy, but how we should start preparing our nation to grow, create good jobs, and complete in the world economy in the years ahead.”

Obama’s budget proposed a five-year overall freeze on discretionary spending outside of security to save more than $400 billion, a freeze on federal salaries, personnel layoffs, a five-year $78 billion reduction in funding at the Department of Defense and the eventual elimination of the Bush era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000.

Investments, the president said, would be in infrastructure projects, energy and technological innovations and higher education.

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