White House officials held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss the 2012 budget proposed by President Barack Obama and how it affects the LGBT population and people living with HIV or AIDS.
Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, discussed the $3.7 trillion budget proposed by President Obama on Monday. The White House has said the budget includes “tough choices” to reduce projected unsustainable deficits and put the country on course for a more productive future.
“To make the investments we need to win the future, the government has to function within its means,” said Barnes.
Despite the constraints, Barnes announced a proposed increase for the Community Relations Service in the Department of Justice to fight hate crimes, and an $18 million increase, or 5% over the 2010 enacted level, for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal antidiscrimination laws. She said the EEOC would be able to add staff and reduce its backlog of private-sector cases.
The budget proposes $132 million for grants to state and local governments to fight violence and bullying under the Department of Education’s Successful, Safe and Healthy students program. Bullying became a high-profile issue last year in the wake of a series of LGBT youth suicides, and Barnes indicated in the question-and-answer session that the White House would have liked to allocate more to the problem.
“This budget is a tough budget, that there are places that under normal circumstances, if we weren’t facing the challenges that we have right now, we would have done something different,” she said.
In the battle against HIV/AIDS, Goldberg said the budget proposed to maintain and in some cases increase support for the national HIV/AIDS strategy in comparison to 2010. Compared to last year, the budget proposes increases in domestic discretionary HIV/AIDS funding at the Department of Health and Human Services by $219 million, and at the Department of Veterans Affairs by $173 million. Funding levels are to be maintained at the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We’re not talking about cuts,” he said. “We’re holding the line across all the lead agencies in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and making increases at HHS and the VA.”
In addition, for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, the budget proposes $940 million for AIDS drug assistance programs, an increase of $80 million above 2010 to support access to HIV-related medications. The budget also increases HIV prevention efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $58 million over 2010, which includes a $20.4 million increase for programs specifically targeting gay and bisexual men. Some $22 million is proposed for HIV prevention in metropolitan areas hardest hit by the epidemic.
“It refocuses our efforts, and it proposes targeted new investments,” said Goldberg.
However, asked about House Republicans’ plan to make significant cuts in vital HIV programs, Barnes declined to pledge that President Obama would urge Democrats to fight the proposals.
“The budget has articulated the values that he has around this set of issues and the importance that he places on this set of issues consistent with what he said during the campaign,” she said. “I think his budget really stands as the backdrop and as the platform from which we will be operating as we move forward. This budget really articulates the framework that he believes should be the guiding set of principles. It certainly is for us.”
For more on the overall budget, watch this report by NBC: