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Rural and LGBTQ Essential Problems Encountered During the COVID-19 Crisis

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By William Clements
February 18, 2021

COVID-19 has presented enormous barriers that are often witnessed globally, but in the United States there are unseen negative impacts and externalities that exist primarily within communities of color and populations of sexual minorities. This pandemic has presented unique obstacles to binary and tripartite minority communities regarding access to medical care for racial and sexual minorities, financial security and access to broadband and the internet while maintaining safe social distancing measures. One of the most substantial policy feats accomplished during the pandemic was found in the CARES Act, which unfortunately did little for the neediest in many rural and less developed areas. The issues accompanying this failure in receiving aide only serve as further testament of rural areas being the forgotten areas of the United States. Many of these individuals have not filed tax returns for years due to unemployment, and others do not own bank accounts. It may seem farfetched, but the realities in many of America’s rural areas bear little resemblance to the more technologically developed cities and areas identifying the mismanagement of leveraging participation and representation on behalf of the less technologically savvy and rural person(s). This will ultimately result in issues such as countless rural individuals not receiving government aid such as the fiscal stimulus provided by the CARES ACT.

Access to Mental Healthcare

American LGBTQ youth are the highly vulnerable population during this time who have not been discussed much during this COVID-19 crisis. LGBTQ youth rely heavily on school support and the assistance of their close network of friends, counselors and teachers. In actuality, many students have lost the only avenues they could maintain to fully express themselves and be safe in the process. Of even greater concern is that many of these individuals find themselves in lockdown with family members who are not understanding, receptive or even welcoming of spending an extended amount of time with the individual, if they are allowed to stay at all. More so, leveraging the polarity pairs of human rights and community obligations and freedom and authority are both matters of life and death during this time for many vulnerable populations.

Financial Insecurity of Rural Communities

It is proper to begin with the conclusion in this matter. We must first acknowledge the stark fact that many rural hospitals were hanging on by a thread before the COVID-19 crisis and now are traveling a perilous path due to mismanagement of leveraging participation and representation. It is a complex and likely inconclusive position that I am forced to take in this section because many rural hospitals were facing financial ruin due to the exodus of jobs and, subsequently, citizens from these areas. As a result, not  only has economic growth declined, but also access to medical care and higher quality of life. I have published an article arguing for the establishment of a Universal Basic Income of $2,500 to spearhead a resurgence of healthy and financially viable rural living. It is without question that in a service economy such as within the United States, disposable incomes are the lubrication that enables the wheel of the economy’s proficient rotation. Therefore, the adoption of UBI should be of the utmost importance.

Conclusion and Impact

At current, there are no further initiatives that I am aware of, but I do believe that we could benefit from raising more concern and attention to the plights of rural communities and the negative impact of COVID-19 on sexual minorities throughout the United States. Social marginalization and isolation are growing problems in the United States.  Legislators often suggest that rules and policies such as these are  “common sense” or demanded by their constituency. However, research has shown the impact of social isolation and marginalization on the overall development of the individual can be catastrophic. Successful assimilation into society creates a sense of identity and belonging in the community and a UBI will prove useful.

Author: William Clements, PhD, is a professor in the School of Government at higher education institutions. With a B.S. of Justice Studies, M.S. of Forensic Psychology, PhD of Public Policy and Administration (concentration: Public Management and Leadership), he has served in public service fields for 13+ years. His interests include economics, politics, and public policy. Email: [email protected]

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