More state budget cuts are looming, and LGBT seniors and
persons living with AIDS may be among those hardest hit, tenants groups say.
Using the line item veto, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
unilaterally slashed the renters rebate in September, a key housing assistance
program. The rebate gave $150 million to the elderly and the disabled across
the state, including people living with AIDS, to defray housing costs. Housing
advocates fear more drastic cuts in the next round of budget negotiations.
A rally is planned for next week.
"Slashing the renter's rebate was a particular slap in
the face because there was no talk whatsoever about eliminating those
funds," said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a
statewide organization for tenants' rights. The 40-year-old program was cut
with no notice, Preston said.
The cut concerns the LGBT community, as people living with
AIDS will see a series of small reductions in their incomes this year, including
Medicaid cuts and no cost of living increase, said Tommi Avicolli Mecca,
director of counseling services at the Housing Rights Committee.
"We are looking at people who need every cent they can
get to keep alive," Avicolli Mecca said.
The cuts in the renter's rebate will also affect LGBT
seniors, who are "just as poor as any senior," Avicolli Mecca noted.
James Nykolay, 60, who's living with AIDS and has been
living on disability since 1998, told the Bay Area Reporter
that even the smallest cut has a dramatic impact on
his fixed budget. The renters rebate gave Nykolay an extra $350 a year.
"I'm living on a SSI, $877 a month, with a Section 8
subsidy," Nykolay explained. "I rely on the renter's rebate every
year to get through Christmas."
"This is tough. Christmas is really an important time
of year for me," Nykolay said.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis, which he received in May,
has taken up most of Nykolay's small store of disposable income.
When he got the letter informing him that his renter's
rebate was cut, Nykolay immediately stopped buying the vitamin supplements he'd
been using throughout his cancer treatments, which he credits with bolstering
his immune system. He's trying to save all of the money he can in preparation
for further cuts.
"You just make it every month," explained Terrie Frye, 62. Frye, who is also disabled with a back injury and
suffers from depression, reported that she has no disposable income.
The renter's rebate, Frye said, gave her the money she needed
to make ends meet at the end of the year: she stocked her pantry, took care of
any unpaid bills, and brought her grandchildren and great-grandchildren
"This is something that's been there for 40
years," Frye noted. "If they were going to take it out of the budget
they should have given us notice."
"Working for poor people in this city – it's a
tough time right now," Avicolli Mecca said, adding that he hoped that
LGBTs would develop a better understanding of the wide range of social justice
issues that impact the community.
"We cross all lines," Avicolli Mecca said. "A
lot of issues that don't seem to be gay issues are."
Tenants Together, the Housing Rights Committee, and other
local advocacy groups will hold a statewide day of action Wednesday, November
19 at noon. In San Francisco, the rally will take place at the State Building
at McAllister and Van Ness, across from City Hall.
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