The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — headed by Dr. Ben Carson, pictured above — just proposed a rule change that would roll back a 2016 Obama-era guidance requiring single-sex homeless shelters to accept transgender people.
The Washington Post reports:
“Under HUD’s proposed new rule… operators of single-sex shelters may consider someone’s biological sex — instead of how they self-identify — in making placement and accommodation decisions. They could ‘determine an individual’s sex based on a good faith belief that an individual seeking access … is not of the sex, as defined in the single sex facility’s policy, which the facility accommodates…’
The rule says that shelter operators can decide whether to apply this rule or not, but whichever way they apply it, it must be applied consistently. Because homeless people can’t always easily travel to another homeless shelter, if a local rejects a trans person for their gender identity, they may essentially be left out on the streets or referred to a shelter miles away.
Furthermore, because the rule says it must be applied consistently, when a shelter operator refers a homeless trans person to another shelter, that operator must be consistent in defining that person by the gender they’ve assigned to them rather than the gender the homeless person identifies as.
So, for example, if an operator rejects a trans woman from a women’s shelter because they see that trans woman as male, the shelter they refer the trans woman to could actually just be a men’s shelter because the operator is required to “consistently apply” their perception of a that person’s gender identity in their handling of that homeless client.
In short, the rule is written so broadly that it could be applied either way, either referring a trans person to a trans-friendly shelter or keeping them stuck in a transphobic and misgendering system.
“The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country,” said Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).
While we don’t have exact numbers on how many LGBTQ adults experience homelessness, a 2018 NCTE study showed that 82% of homeless trans people didn’t have a shelter. Considering the violence and stigma that trans people face in our society, leaving them unsheltered makes them more vulnerable to these and other harms.
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Trump Admininstration Took $4 Million from a Fund to Help Sick 9/11 First Responders
With this week marking the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, The Daily News revealed that the Trump administration has taken nearly $4 million from a program meant to track and treat New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firefighters and medics who have developed cancers, respiratory diseases and other illnesses related to having served as first-responders immediately after the attack.
The Daily News found that for four years, the Treasury Department began withholding portions from the National Institute for Occupational Safety’s payments intended for New York City.
According to the program’s director, Dr. David Prezant, who is also the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer, the Treasury Department kept “half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017 … about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019 … [and nearly] $1.447 million” in 2020.
“Here we have sick World Trade Center-exposed firefighters and EMS workers, at a time when the city is having difficult financial circumstances due to COVID-19, and we’re not getting the money we need to be able to treat these heroes. And for years, they wouldn’t even tell us — we never ever received a letter telling us this,” Prezant said.
The U.S. Treasury has never explained why the money is being diverted. The program was started in 2010 under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. In December 2015, the program was extended for 75 years after sick and dying September 11th first responders repeatedly visited the Capitol to push for aid.
“The money that we don’t get means that physicians, nurses and support staff are not hired. We have not had to lay off anyone, yet, but we are at that brink,” Prezant added. “This just isn’t fair. It’s not fair to our patients.”
Former USPS Official Says Treasury Secretary Sought to Make Postal Service a Political Weapon
In congressional testimony on Thursday, David Williams — former U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General and former Vice Chair of the USPS Board of Governors — said that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has long sought to use the USPS for political purposes in ways that hurt both customers and employees.
Additionally, on Friday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said that the USPS will not replace the mail-sorting machines that have recently been deactivated even though the USPS is expecting an unprecedented wave of mail-in ballots in the November presidential elections as voters avoid in-person polling stations to reduce possible COVID-19 exposure.
At the very least the USPS announced on Friday that it had launched a new website to help Americans navigate mail-in voting for the upcoming elections. Congressional Democrats have also pledged to block recent USPS service changes before the election, though it’s unsure what all changes have already occurred.
Williams told the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday that he resigned “when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the Postal Service with the treasury secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort,” according to CBS News
Mnuchin’s position is tasked with giving the USPS the line of credit it needs to operate. Williams said Mnuchin required all of the newly installed USPS board and regulatory commission members hand-picked by Trump to come into Mnuchin’s office to “kiss the ring” before their confirmation.
Williams also said he illegally demanded information about USPS’ labor agreements, postage pricing, volume discounts, contracts and contacts with Amazon, UPS and FedEx. Mnuchin ignored USPS officials’ warnings that his requests were illegal.
“Clearly the president was determined that the Postal Service should inflict harm on Amazon delivery by sharply raising parcel shipping prices on everyone by 400% or more,” Williams told Congress. “On the way to attacking a political foe (Trump has long railed against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos), I was concerned that American citizens would feel the shock of the price increase and that American supply chains would lose much of their value, harming businesses and our competitive position globally.”
The USPS has been in financial trouble for a while because of a 2006 law requiring it to pre-fund 75 years worth of retirement benefits — a $110 billion cost. Like many U.S. businesses, the epidemic significantly harmed the USPS too. Many workers fell ill or began quarantining, causing USPS leaders to spend millions on personal protective equipment, plexiglass and social distancing equipment for offices while its reduced workforce began working overtime at increased pay to help continue services.
On Friday, DeJoy said that the USPS mail-sorting machines which have recently been deactivated won’t be returned for use before the November presidential elections. The machines can sort 36,000 pieces of mail per hour. The deactivation of the machines has contributed to a mail delivery slowdown along with other so-called “cost-cutting measures” including limiting employees overtime and their ability to make extra trips.
Trump’s Postmaster General Destabilizes Postal Service Just 87 Days Before Presidential Elections
In a memo released yesterday, President Donald Trump ally Louis DeJoy — who was hired by Trump’s handpicked Postal Service Board of Governors — reshuffled two top executives and 21 to 31 other executives and staffers who represent “decades of institutional postal knowledge” out of leadership roles or into new positions in the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
This move, along with other recent “cost-saving” measures which have slowed down mail delivery and threatened to worsen the service, comes as an unprecedented wave of mail-in ballots are expected in the November presidential elections as voters avoid in-person polling stations to reduce possible COVID-19 exposure.
The USPS was already in financial trouble because of a 2006 law requiring it to pre-fund 75 years worth of retirement benefits — a $110 billion cost. Also, like many U.S. businesses, the epidemic significantly harmed the USPS. Many workers fell ill or began quarantining, causing USPS leaders to spend millions on personal protective equipment, plexiglass and social distancing equipment for offices while its reduced workforce began working overtime at increased pay to help continue services.
New measures instated by DeJoy ban employees from working overtime and making extra trips to deliver mail while reducing hours at different branches nationwide. The Friday memo also said the service would implement a hiring freeze, ask for voluntary retirements, and reduce its operating units and service regions.
These moves are allegedly meant to help the USPS stay financially solvent as it’s expected to run out of money anytime between March and October 2021, despite the recent approval of a $10 billion Treasury loan approved in the upcoming coronavirus relief package.
The moves are also eyebrow-raising seeing as DeJoy and his wife have between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors and contracts who might directly benefit from the USPS’s failure.
People suspect Trump of deliberately sabotaging the USPS as a way to try and sway the upcoming November elections in his favor. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed that mail-in voting increases voting fraud, wants to deny the service billions in federal aid unless USPS quadruples its prices, something that would compel people to use USPS competitors.
The Trump campaign has sued state and local governments nationwide over mail-in ballot rules, and according to Vox.com:
Different states have different laws about how mail-in ballots work. Currently, 34 states — including swing states like Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — require ballots to be received by election authorities by Election Day, so any delay in the mail could lead to untold numbers of votes going uncounted.
“We’ve been doing mail ballots as postal workers for generations,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “It’s been increasing in popularity. In the last election, 31 million people voted by mail. There’s virtually no fraud.”
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