March 24, 2020

FPI, 44 Organizations Send Letter to Florida Gov Urging Safety Net Protections Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Group recommends implementing 47 policies to ensure the health and safety of families with low income, including Medicaid expansion and ensuring access to no-cost COVID-19 evaluation, testing, and treatment for all Floridians

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Policy Institute (FPI), Florida Children’s Council, League of Women Voters Florida, SPLC Action Fund, Florida Impact to End Hunger, Florida Voices for Health, and 39 other organizations today called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and state agencies to take immediate steps toward helping Sunshine State families with low income respond to the COVID-19 health crisis.

In a joint letter sent via email, the organizations urge Florida to adopt proactive COVID-19 policies to protect families who rely on safety net programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Reemployment Assistance (RA), and the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

“Preserving the safety net right now is literally a matter of life and death for people,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI. “While we applaud those steps already taken by the governor to waive certain requirements for Floridians to access safety net programs, there is much more that needs to be done to protect the millions of residents already struggling to get by on low income, and the millions more who will depend on programs like SNAP and TANF as our state sees massive layoffs.” 

There are 47 policy recommendations outlined in the letter. They include:

  • Ensuring access to COVID-19 evaluation, testing and treatment for all, provided at no cost, regardless of insurance or immigration status.
  • Restoring retroactive Medicaid eligibility for seniors, persons with disabilities and non-pregnant adults. Without this coverage, people who suddenly become gravely ill due to COVID-19 will face enormous medical debt and possible bankruptcy. The increased federal match under the federal disaster package will more than cover the cost of restoring this cut.
  • Determining financial eligibility based on expected income. Because so many Floridians have been informed that they will lose jobs or have their hours at work reduced, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) should determine eligibility based on their expected income.
  • Developing a plan to serve Floridians confined to their homes who are unable to use a computer. DCF announced on March 18, 2020, that it was closing public access to brick-and-mortar storefronts due to coronavirus. Because 10 percent of people apply for safety net benefits in person, DCF recommends that those Floridians use drop-boxes at the department’s storefront locations to turn in their applications. However, all seniors and persons with significant medical conditions, many of whom do not have internet access or a computer, have been advised to stay home. 
  • Expanding Medicaid to all adults with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. More than 800,000 uninsured Floridians with low income are excluded from Medicaid coverage in Florida. In addition, thousands of Floridians with low income are losing jobs and employer-sponsored health coverage at the very moment when access to health care is critical for themselves and their families. Florida is one of only 14 states that has not strengthened its Medicaid program under the purview of the Affordable Care Act.

“The organizations on this letter look forward to working with the governor and state agencies on implementing policies to protect all residents in the Sunshine State amid this public health crisis,” added Knight.

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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