July 21, 2020

Coalition to Gov: Reimposing Harmful Barriers to Accessing Safety Net Programs Amid Pandemic is ‘Reckless’

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.

In a joint letter, group points to high unemployment rate and food insecurity amid worsening pandemic and states that families with low income who depend on safety net programs have been disproportionately impacted

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Policy Institute (FPI) today joined 52 organizations across the state in urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to continue waiving work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants, and to extend recertifications for SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid recipients.

The Florida Department of Children and Families has indicated that work and recertification requirements will go back into effect in July 2020.

“The pandemic and subsequent recession, which are far from over, have disproportionately harmed families with low income,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI. “By reinstating these work and recertification requirements, the state is turning a blind eye to the hardship families are facing right now, and instead going in the opposite direction by putting up barriers to accessing basic necessities.”

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that hunger continues to spike, with 11 percent of adults and 23 percent of children in Florida experiencing hunger over the period of June 25 to July 7.  

Even before the pandemic, SNAP and TANF participants subject to work requirements faced a more difficult time finding full-time jobs than other Floridians. A 2018 study by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability suggests that many SNAP and TANF participants in Florida lose their assistance as a work sanction due to significant barriers, such as health issues and lack of transportation. The letter notes that the public health emergency has only exacerbated these barriers.

Recertification is already challenging for Floridians who do not have internet service or are not technologically savvy. Now, amid COVID19, many people subject to this requirement cannot get outside help from a library or community partner because their age or health condition requires them to stay at home during the pandemic.

“We urge the governor and state agencies to make the right decision and continue waiving recertification and work requirements,” added Knight. “Now is not the time to take away a family’s food assistance or cash assistance because they are unable to comply with onerous safety net program requirements.”

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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