February 7, 2019

Gov's Budget Proposal Makes Smart Investments in Affordable Housing, Transportation and Conservation but There's Still Room for Improvement

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.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s recommended budget includes full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and smart investments in transportation projects and environmental conservation. This would generate economic activity and help improve the quality of life for Florida residents. These investments signal a strong commitment to the long-term health of families, communities and natural resources, and they would put the state on stronger footing for shared economic growth.

Also noteworthy are some additional investments in mental health and substance use disorder treatment. However, after a decade of severe cuts by state lawmakers to health care programs and services that help some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, this will do little in the way of solving access-to-care issues or making health care more affordable. The proposed budget also fails to restore Retroactive Medicaid Benefits, a vital cushion for Medicaid beneficiaries following a major medical crisis, like a car accident or stroke.

Despite the proposed criminal justice budget being the largest in history, it does not offer enough funding opportunities for inmates’ re-entry and rehabilitation. While the budget has provided major increases in areas that have been neglected in the past, it still falls short in creating a better pathway to reentry.

The recommended budget also does little to mend Florida’s torn safety net to support struggling families. Under the recommendations for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or cash assistance, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, vulnerable Floridians would continue to get poorer and hungrier, with few opportunities for meaningful education and training for jobs that pay a living wage.

Lastly, DeSantis’s proposal does not address fundamental disparities embedded in Florida’s tax system, which continue to have a greater impact on low- and middle-income families. Our state ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to tax fairness, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Families earning less than $18,700 contribute 12.7 percent of their household income to state and local taxes, while families with incomes exceeding $548,700 — the top 1 percent — only contribute a 2.3 percent share. The governor’s budget does not include any measures to mitigate this inequality.

While there are areas where it falls short, DeSantis’s first budget proposal makes a good step toward reinvesting in Florida’s future, and represents a clear departure from his predecessor.

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