February 21, 2022

Floridians Must Have a Say in How State is Allocating Billions in Federal ARPA Dollars

As conference committees begin convening to negotiate the final budget for fiscal year 2022-23, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Florida Policy Institute (FPI) released the following statement

The influx of federal dollars has been a lifeline for Florida’s state budget. Just like last year, the House and Senate were able to avoid making deep cuts to public services in their respective budgets because federal COVID relief measures, like the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, padded state coffers.

We are disappointed, however, that the public was again kept in the dark and given no opportunity to provide input as to how billions in ARPA funds are being appropriated. Of the total $8.8 billion allocated to Florida in state fiscal recovery funds, $3.5 billion is yet to be allocated, but neither the House nor Senate budget proposals provide plans for how these funds will be used. There were also no committee debates around best uses for these federal dollars. Florida Policy Institute has made several recommendations for how these funds can be invested, including those laid out in a recent brief detailing how ARPA dollars could be used to improve the state’s criminal justice system by fixing deteriorating buildings and restoring cuts to educational and rehabilitation programs at Florida’s prisons, and addressing the backlog of court cases at Florida’s Clerk of Courts.

One of the bright spots in the Senate’s budget proposal is language that would bring all state employees, plus some subcontracted providers, to a $15-per-hour wage, and we encourage the conference committees to adopt the Senate’s proposal. However, neither the Senate nor the House budget strengthen statewide wage enforcement measures, like SB 1756/HB 507 would do by creating a Florida Department of Labor. State enforcement is critical given the gradual statewide minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2026 and this advanced timeline proposed by the Legislature. Without such provisions, we will continue to see a rise in wage theft as more low-income workers are paid a sub-minimum wage.

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