February 26, 2024

Florida Budget Proposals in Brief: Safety Net

This post is part of the “Florida Budget Proposals in Brief” blog series, where FPI highlights some of the key components of the House and Senate budget proposals — where they align, how they differ, and what it means for Floridians, communities, and the state economy. Overall, the Senate and House budget proposals for FY 2024-25 are quite similar. Unlike previous years, the joint budget conference committees will not have many significant differences to negotiate. Still, there are some notable variances, and the funding decisions have both fiscal and policy implications for the state.


The Florida Senate passed its fiscal year (FY) 2024-25 budget proposal (SB 2500), which totals $115.9 billion and represents a $578 million (or a 0.50 percent) reduction from the current budget.[1] The Florida House’s FY 2024-25 budget proposal (HB 5001) totals $115.5 billion and represents a $969 million (or a 0.83 percent) reduction compared to the current budget.

The next step in the budget process will be for a Joint Budget Commission to meet and reconcile any differences to propose a General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2024-25. Both chambers will then vote on the proposed GAA, and once it is passed, it will be sent to the governor, who can make line item vetoes and sign the bill into law. The Legislature can then override vetoes if two-thirds of the members, in each chamber, vote to do so. The final budget will be enacted as of July 1, 2024.

Safety Net

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) provides cash assistance on a temporary basis to families with children at a time when the family is most in need. Oftentimes, Florida families turn to TANF after parents or caregivers experience a medical crisis, divorce, or other loss of income. The program is supposed to help struggling families provide essentials for their children, like diapers, soap, school supplies, and clothes, without having to resort to foster care, an alternative that costs the state much more than TANF and breaks up families just because of their financial situation. However, Florida is neglecting its TANF program, as well as the children in families who turn to the program for help. TANF benefit payments in Florida have not changed in three decades. For a family of three, Florida provides a maximum of $303 a month in assistance monthly — or only 14 percent of poverty one of the lowest in the country.

Yet, neither the House nor the Senate propose to increase TANF payment levels. Instead, both budgets would reduce the overall funding for cash assistance payments to TANF families. Although the current budget funds cash assistance payments at $123.5 million, the FY 2024-25 Senate proposal suggests funding it at just over $120 million, while the House budget only proposes funding at $106 million. While the proposed reductions in the appropriation for cash assistance payments for FY 2024-25 should not result in reduced payments to individual families, lawmakers have not budgeted for any increase to current payment allotments.

In addition, neither the House nor the Senate appropriates funds to provide TANF to newborns. Some newborns are currently denied some or all assistance because their parents already receive TANF for another child under a Florida law commonly referred to as “family cap.” Like family cap laws in other states, Florida’s family cap statute was enacted based on false racist and sexist stereotypes that have since been debunked. However, to date, Florida is one of only seven states that have not repealed the family cap.  A bill is currently pending in the Legislature that would repeal this antiquated and harmful law. However, without an accompanying appropriation, that effort is likely doomed.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Customer Call Centers

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly grocery assistance to low income households that cannot afford necessities because they live on fixed incomes or low wages, have lost jobs, or are unable to work due to a health crisis. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) relies heavily on technology to administer SNAP and other safety net programs, including operating customer call centers for participants to access if they have problems with their benefits or need to talk to a DCF worker.

Although customer call centers (CCC) are critical to the operation of Florida’s SNAP program, inadequate staffing and a spike in demand are wreaking havoc on the ability of call centers to meet the needs of people who are applying for or participating in the program. DCF estimates not only that wait times for people calling the CCC had grown to over 31 minutes as of July 2023, but also that the number of callers asking to speak with a live agent swelled by 29 percent in 2023.[2] Consequently, the House budget expressly provides $12 million in funding to address the staffing shortage at call centers. The Senate budget contains no such directive, even though DCF was notified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service on February 8, 2024 that the state’s rate for timely processing SNAP applications was an unacceptable 66 percent.

Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program (Summer EBT) is a food assistance program established for children by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Summer EBT provides each eligible child approximately $40 per month in grocery assistance during the summer, when school is out, to supplement summer meal programs. Summer EBT is important because, although many children with low income have access to free lunch during the school year through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), they do not have access to the program when school is not in session. Summer EBT was created to ensure that families continue to have resources to keep these children from going hungry during the summer.

As FPI mentioned in a previous blog post, in 2024, Florida chose not to participate in Summer EBT, even though the program would have provided over 2 million hungry children with roughly $259 million in federal food assistance. This was a missed opportunity for all Florida children who face food insecurity. However, although hunger affects children of all races and ethnicities in the state, children of color are disproportionately harmed by Florida’s decision to pass on Summer EBT for 2024. The money that participating families would be spending at area grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and farm stands is estimated to have an economic impact to the state of as much as $466 million.

Although 50 percent of administrative costs must be borne by the state, the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of Summer EBT benefits, as well as the remainder of a state’s administrative expenses in running the program. For Florida to participate in Summer EBT in 2025, the 2024 Legislature would have to either appropriate the administrative costs for running the program or give the governing agency flexibility to submit a budget amendment to increase budget authority to administer the program. Neither the House nor the Senate budget do this.

Food Insecurity

Approximately 1 in 7 children in Florida face hunger. Fortunately, food banks, which distribute food to people in need throughout the state, play a large part in combating food insecurity. Yet both the House and Senate miss opportunities to more robustly address food insecurity among households who continue to struggle to put food on the table, particularly in areas where it is difficult to buy affordable, nutritious food.  For example, the Senate proposes to fund Feeding Florida, which is a network of  nine member food banks that provides millions of pounds of food to Floridians facing hunger, at $7.5 million. The House budget, in contrast, would only fund Feeding Florida at $5.27 million. Both proposals represent a decrease to current funding levels (for FY 2023-24, Feeding Florida received approximately $9 million).[3]

Farm Share, which partners with  farmers across the state to receive fruits and vegetables for distribution to people in need free of charge, also helps fight food insecurity in Florida. The House proposes to fund Farm Share at $3.25 million while the Senate would fund the program at $6.5 million, down from the program’s current funding of $8.75 million for FY 2023-2024 .




[1] For analysis of top-line budget figures, FPI uses the current General Appropriations Act (FY 2023-24), including vetoes, for sections 1-7, which totals $116.5 billion. However, this does not include back-of-the-bill sections.  For the current GAA, including vetoes, plus back-of-the-bill appropriations, supplemental appropriations, and transfer totals, please see the Florida Legislature’s “Fiscal Analysis in Brief: 2023 Legislative Session: Chart 8.”

[2] The Florida Department of Children and Families, on p. 367 of its agency request for FY 2024-25, provides a narrative detailing the challenges with the Customer Care Center wait times.

[3] Some organizations within Feeding Florida’s network also received a direct appropriation by lawmakers in FY 2023-2024.

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