HRC Releases Research Brief on the Vulnerabilities of the LGBTQ Community During the COVID-19 Crisis

by Elliott Kozuch

The lives and livelihoods of many in the LGBTQ community are at risk amidst COVID-19 crisis.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation published a research brief outlining health and economic risks faced by the LGBTQ community during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This brief provides critical data for policymakers and community advocates working to address the health and safety needs of the community during this crisis.

“We are facing a global public health crisis, and as in all emergencies, the most marginalized are at increased risk,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Many in the LGBTQ community may lack the resources to effectively combat COVID-19, lacking access to paid sick leave or living without health coverage, and are more likely to work in an industry that has been most affected by the pandemic, putting them in greater economic jeopardy or increasing their exposure to the virus. It is also critical to understand the challenges facing the LGBTQ young person who has been sent home from school to face family rejection or the LGBTQ senior who is more likely to be living alone during this crisis. It is important to know and understand the unique impact of the virus on the LGBTQ community so that we can prepare to weather this crisis as we have weathered crises before -- by uniting as a community and helping those in greatest need.”

Last week, HRC joined public health officials and coalition partners at the National LGBT Cancer Network, GLMA and other organizations in outlining our concerns and laying out specific steps to minimize any disparity for the LGBTQ community and individuals living with HIV. 

LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to the health risks of the virus. They are less likely to have health coverage, are more likely to smoke and have asthma, and have a variety of chronic illnesses:

  • 17% of LGBTQ people lack health coverage;
  • One in five LGBTQ people have not seen a doctor when they needed to because they couldn’t afford it;
  • 37% of LGBTQ adults smoke every day compared to 27% of non-LGBTQ people;
  • 21% of LGBTQ people have asthma, compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ people;

LGBTQ people are more likely to work jobs in highly affected industries, often with more exposure and/or higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis:

  • One in five LGBTQ people live in poverty and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ;
  • The top 5 industries that LGBTQ adults work in are industries heavily impacted by COVID-19, affecting more than 5 million LGBTQ workers or 40% of LGBTQ workers (compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ individuals working in those industries);
  • A disproportionate number of LGBTQ people work in restaurants (15%) compared to their non-LGBTQ peers (6%) and the median wage in 2018 for food preparation and service occupations is $11.09 per hour;
  • Only 29% of respondents to HRC Foundation’s 2018 LGBTQ Paid Leave Survey said their employer offers paid leave specifically for medical reasons and that they were eligible to use it.

Further, given the severity of this pandemic, HRC has taken steps to protect the health and safety of our staff, members, volunteers, supporters and all those who are fighting so hard to advance equality and build a better world for all of us. Specifically, HRC will, among other things, cancel or postpone all of our public events, including our gala dinners in Nashville on March 14, Los Angeles on March 28 and Houston on April 4. HRC will instead host volunteers and board members from across the country for a virtual Equality Convention on Friday, March 20. Find a full list of all of HRC’s efforts and resources at this link. Read the full brief here.

Health & Aging