April 9, 2021

Budget Negotiations Must Center on Using Federal Fiscal Aid to Fill Revenue Shortfalls and Preserve Public Services

This post was last updated on December 8, 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.

As lawmakers grapple with negotiating a state budget during the pandemic and recession, the top priority should be ensuring both the short- and long-term recovery of Floridians, particularly those hit hardest by COVID-19. However, absent from the $95 billion budget passed by the Senate is $10.2 billion in federal fiscal aid that Florida is slated to receive through the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. While Senate leadership has assured members that they will incorporate ARPA funds into their budget negotiations, their vision remains unclear.

The Florida House, on the other hand, did include the ARPA dollars in its budget proposal in the form of $7.9 billion in non-recurring general revenue funds. However, the proposal does nothing to help essential workers or small businesses, nor does it pave the way for an equitable recovery.

State policymakers can and should plan to use these federal dollars to help those who are struggling the most, fill revenue shortfalls, mitigate the harm caused by COVID-19, and advance equitable policies. Instead, the Senate’s budget proposal includes, among other things, cuts to Medicaid, higher education, and the Healthy Start program for women, along with a plan to consolidate state prisons that does not include comprehensive criminal justice reform.

To the benefit of state policymakers, as they begin to negotiate differences between their proposals, the April Revenue Estimating Conference adjusted the severity of revenue shortfalls from $3.3 billion to $1.28 billion over fiscal years 2020-21 and 2021-2022.

Considering the revised upward revenue projections, billions in federal fiscal aid headed Florida’s way, and the fact that the state has healthy reserves, the budget negotiations should center on preserving public services that have been earmarked for cuts and investing the additional federal funds in a way that will position the state for a recovery that is inclusive of all Floridians.

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