Anne Swerlick
April 26, 2017

House Reduction of the Personal Needs Allowance Symptomatic of a Harsh Budget for Vulnerable Floridians

This post was last updated on September 29, 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.

Another glaring example of balancing the budget on the backs of struggling Floridians is the House’s unfortunate proposal to cut the personal needs allowance (PNA) for Medicaid patients residing in nursing homes or other institutions.  In a recent column, former Senate President, Don Gaetz, compares this strategy to “digging under grandma’s bed in the nursing home to see if she is hiding a jar of nickels.”

Who is affected by this proposal? The low-income elderly, veterans and persons with disabilities who live in Medicaid-funded residential facilities across the state. These patients must pay most of their income to the nursing home for the cost of care, but they can hold on to a small PNA. It can be used for items not covered by Medicaid, such as a telephone, clothing, vitamins, toiletries, haircuts or a birthday card for their grandchild.

Prior to 2014, Florida’s PNA had remained at $35 per month for 49 years! Then, inspired by a plea from a constituent nursing home resident, former Senate President Don Gaetz and his son, former State Representative Matt Gaetz, successfully championed increasing the allowance from $35 per month to $105 per month.

The House is now proposing to reduce this allowance to $70 per month. Although this is projected to save about $8 million in state funds, it will simultaneously trigger the loss of $13 million in federal dollars. This is a quality of care issue making a profound difference in the everyday lives of nursing home residents across the state. We can do better for our most vulnerable Floridians.

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