July 26, 2022

Stimulus Checks Will Provide a Small Boost to Some of the Poorest Children in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced the rollout of a Pandemic Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (P-TANF) program to provide financial COVID relief for children in families with the lowest income in the state. Under the plan, children in families who are struggling the most will be getting a check for $450 per child to help them get ready for school. P-TANF is a COVID relief program established with money appropriated by Congress in the American Rescue Plan Act for the TANF Pandemic Emergency Assistance program.

Although not every family strapped for funds is eligible for P-TANF, Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) says that those who will receive P-TANF checks for their kids include families participating in TANF. This is exactly what a coalition of over 20 organizations, led by FPI, pushed the state to do with P-TANF when the federal government first announced its availability.

Florida made the right decision to direct limited P-TANF funds to children in families with the least income.

Families participating in TANF in Florida have some of the lowest incomes in the state. The Florida Legislature has not raised TANF benefits for children in the program in 30 years. Even though 20 states, including Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, have increased TANF benefits since July 2020, the average grant amount for families in Florida remains at $239 a month.Meanwhile, the nationwide median TANF benefit level is $498. In fact, Florida’s TANF allotments are now at the lowest level they have ever been in the history of its cash assistance program. Adjusted for inflation, benefit levels have fallen 41 percent since the mid-nineties. Benefit payments are less than 17 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which puts Florida’s TANF allotments in the bottom 10 of all states in the country.

Even before the pandemic, families participating in TANF were struggling to buy necessities like diapers, clothes, and school supplies. Now, with the costs of everyday essentials ballooning, families with children in TANF are barely able to keep their heads above water.

Florida Policy Institute applauds Gov. DeSantis’ decision to get additional help into the hands of parents and caregivers of kids in the TANF program. Now it's time for the 2023 Florida Legislature to follow suit and overhaul TANF benefit levels, which have been neglected for too long. Although P-TANF will go a long way in helping families absorb skyrocketing costs associated with raising children, it is not a permanent fix to a system that ignores the most vulnerable children in Florida.

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