Patching Holes in the Safety Net

Posted in: News 2005-Older

Special Report: Policy & Advocacy

Congress returns to session this week to face a breathtaking pile of fall work. Disaster relief and the Supreme Court vacancies will occupy much of lawmakers’ energy, but they’ve got other pressing concerns too. They must pass a budget for the coming fiscal year, including for AIDS work. And they must reauthorize the law that provides funding for the vast majority of the feds’ AIDS care programs.

Every five years, Congress re-ups the now-$2 billion Ryan White CARE Act. During the Act’s previous two reauthorizations, legislators have done little more than tinker with its workings. But a strong and growing debate among AIDS providers about the way the law works — and the way it divides up resources — is likely to force substantive changes this time.

We’ll all have to live with the decisions Congress makes for at least the next five years. So has complied a Ryan White reauthorization primer to help you get involved in the process of shaping your future.

What’s Ryan White?

A Fraying Safety Net
The CARE Act was a stop-gap solution to what we all thought would be a temporary crisis. Fifteen years later, it’s ironically imperiled by its own sucess. In chapter one of our 2005 report “The Time is Now!”, we explain how the system has succeeded — and how it’s now poised to fail.

It’s a Black Thing
In keeping with the epidemic’s demographics — particularly among those getting publicly-financed care — CARE Act-funded programs serve largely Black clients. Here’s a quick look how the system works and who uses it.

What’s wrong with it?

Southern Discomfort
Southern states face an intensifying epidemic with increasingly inadequate resources. Local policymakers and service providers say they’re getting short changed by the feds. Is it true? editor Kai Wright reports from the epidemic’s southern frontier for Poz magazine.

Stretching a Dollar Thin
The problem with Ryan White may be less about how it divides its money and more about how few funds it has to spread around. Here’s a look at the program’s plummeting stock in the federal budget.

What do they want to do about it?

The President’s AIDS Plan
Here’s how the administration sees an “improved and modernized” treatment and care network for the poor and the positive.

AIDS activists and service providers are making some recommendations of their own, but they’re hardly speaking in unison. Here’s the position papers of two of the Ryan White debate’s primary participants:

The Southern AIDS Coalition;

The CAEAR Coalition (in conjunction with AIDS Action).

What can you do about it?

Step One: Speak Up
The first step in impacting public policy is telling those who are making decisions for you what you want done. The independent watchdog group Project Vote Smart features online tools to help you learn who your elected officials are and how to get in touch with them.

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