August 2, 2021

Questions Remain After Florida Files Spending Plan for New Federal Dollars to Enhance Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services

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.

In a June letter spearheaded by Florida Policy Institute, 31 organizations called on Governor Ron DeSantis to act on Florida’s time-limited opportunity to receive millions in additional federal Medicaid funding for home- and community-based services (HCBS). These are new federal dollars under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that are available to states which apply for them. States were required to submit a spending plan to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by June 12, 2021, or request a 30-day extension by that date. 

After requesting the 30-day extension, on July 12, 2021, Florida policymakers filed with the federal government the state’s spending plan and narrative describing the proposed use of over $1 billion in new federal and state dollars for HCBS. ARPA requires that these funds be used on services provided during the period from April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022.

Florida's proposed uses for these dollars include, but are not limited to:

  • financial incentives to address provider recruitment and retention challenges;
  • one time subsidy payments for Floridians 60 and older living in family-type private homes;
  • funds for additional devices for clients such as smartphones, computers, and internet activation fees;
  • funds to purchase eyeglasses, wheelchair transfer boards, and additional environmental modifications;
  • funds to eligible providers, including school-based providers, to deliver mental health and substance abuse treatment; and
  • funds to remove people from the waiting list for HCBS provided under the Agency for Persons with Disabilities program.

However, many questions remain on specific details for implementation of the plan, including how these funds will be distributed among providers and waiver programs.  

The state currently faces substantial unmet HCBS needs, with over 80,000 Floridians on waiting lists

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