November 4, 2021

About Data and Integrity

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

At Florida Policy Institute (FPI), our values are our north star. They guide our work and reflect who we seek to be: we pursue equity, lead with integrity, share power, and act with kindness. The following reflection is part of FPI’s new “In Our Words” series, the goal of which is to make space for those stories and experiences that help shape people’s outlooks on policy and government.

It’s Tuesday — an okay day whose most charming quality is that it’s not Monday — and my morning starts like most other mornings: I listen to the news, brew coffee, and clock in at Florida Policy Institute from my home office, the corner of a dining room table, now a semi-permanent workspace, where I keep my laptop, extra monitor, notes, and articles. I start up the laptop, open Microsoft Teams, and visit the Economic & Demographic Research Office to check publications and announcements.

This time, I’m pleased to see the 2021 Florida Tax Handbook there, available to download, all 328 pages. Click. Save. I open a new tab and go to the Florida Channel before returning to Microsoft Teams to see what my colleagues have shared about state issues concerning the budget, criminal justice, education, environment, health, immigration, and taxes. I make sure to respond to emails, double-check my schedule for meetings, and confirm my projects for the week.

It’s my job, just like it is the job of all my colleagues at FPI, to lead with integrity: to analyze and interpret data with soundness, wholeness, and completeness, and tell the whole fact-based story about public policy decisions, economic mobility, and the quality of life in Florida.


Once I have a good idea of what is happening in the Florida budget and revenue world, I open up yesterday’s spreadsheet. I continue to manage and clean the data so I can analyze it — this time, I’m looking at the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances. Sometimes this leads to a ‘ta-da’ or ‘a-ha’ moment, but it’s rarely immediate. Sometimes it's surprising how little "big data" actually says at first. And most of the time, it's frustrating to think about how cumbersome, challenging, and unfriendly many "publicly available" datasets are to the public.

Yet, I know there is tremendous meaning hiding in the datasets; beyond the noise, there are numbers that everyone should see. So, I ask myself: where are the numbers that explain economic mobility in Florida? Where are the numbers that describe the quality of life, wellbeing, and human dignity of individuals? Where are the numbers that explain what it means to be one of the millions of Floridians who do not earn enough to afford basic necessities?

Of course, in and of itself, a number says nothing. It’s my job, just like it is the job of all my colleagues at FPI, to lead with integrity: to analyze and interpret data with soundness, wholeness, and completeness, and tell the whole fact-based story about public policy decisions, economic mobility, and the quality of life in Florida. It makes sense to me that one of FPI’s guiding values is integrity. The word (integrity) itself cannot be disassociated from data because it comes from the Latin integer (literally meaning intact, whole, complete), or, as understood today, a “whole number.”

Tuesday continues. I attend meetings about the American Rescue Plan Act. I answer inquiries about corporate income taxes. I read through Revenue Estimating Conference reports. I check Microsoft Teams. I use data to create new charts and graphs about public service expenditures and tax collections in the Sunshine State. All the while, I’m thinking about how to use research and advocacy to ensure every Floridian has an equal opportunity to thrive and ensure they have access to objective analyses and policy recommendations, down to the last number. I’m thinking about leading with integrity. It’s 5 o’clock, time to step away from my corner (of a dining room table) office. Before signing out and closing my laptop, I check to see what’s in store for tomorrow — knowing well what’s expected of me.

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