December 30, 2021

The Year in Review: 10 Visuals to Round Out 2021 in Florida

In 2021, people across the nation continued to face hardship amid the pandemic and economic recession. Below, FPI staff counts down 10 charts, maps, and other visuals that help capture the policy landscape in the state.

10. Wage theft in Florida is costing the state millions.

In November 2020, Floridians voters approved Amendment 2, which gradually increases the state minimum wage until it reaches $15 per hour in 2026. However, the minimum wage has been largely unenforced for at least a decade in Florida, according to an analysis by FPI and Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization. In fact, after Florida’s 2005 minimum wage increase, its minimum wage violation rate more than doubled to 17 percent by the end of 2007.

The report also found that if current wage theft trends persist, Florida can expect to lose $152 million in sales tax revenue over the 2021-2026 phase-in period of the $15 minimum wage. That works out to an average of $25.3 million in lost sales tax revenue per year. Read more

9. White students disproportionately benefit from Bright Futures scholarships.

In recent years, Florida has spent over $500 million annually on Bright Futures grant aid to Florida students — funded by state lottery proceeds — without regard to student financial need.

Only 6 percent of Bright Futures disbursements in the 2019-2020 school year were to Black students, while 56 percent went to white students and 26 percent to Hispanic students. In fact, in its 23-year history, the share of Bright Futures grants going to Black students has never exceeded 7 percent. Conversely, over that same period, the share of Black and Hispanic high school graduates in Florida has grown. Read more

8. Expanding Medicaid would help Floridians across racial and ethnic groups gain access to health care coverage.

In 2021, state leaders once again refused to take up Medicaid expansion, even though doing so would allow the state to draw down billions in additional federal dollars and help 425,000 Floridians stuck in the coverage gap. People in the gap have income below the poverty level, so they do not qualify for marketplace subsidies, yet they still cannot receive Medicaid in Florida under the state's extremely low income threshold.

Most of the 2.2 million adults caught in the coverage gap live in the South, with about one in five Latino, Black, Asian, and white individuals in the gap residing in Florida. Read more

7. More than 90 percent of businesses in Florida pay zero corporate income tax.

Florida imposes a corporate income tax (CIT) on corporations doing business in Florida. However, the state exempts: (1) the first $50,000 of net income, (2) Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), and (3) S Corporations or pass-through businesses that have no more than 100 shareholders and whose profits flow through to shareholders’ income. Since Florida does not have a personal income tax, these profits are not taxed in the state. As a result, most businesses in Florida do not pay CITs. Even among the businesses that are not exempt, only one in 10 owes a CIT. Read more

6. The labor participation rate for women in Florida has dropped to its lowest point since 1987 (outside of the Great Recession).

The impacts of the COVID-19 economic crisis fell disproportionately on women in Florida. Women, especially women of color, make up an outsized share of the state’s “essential workers,” or those who the state has depended on to keep society running through the pandemic. The employees of sectors hit hardest by the economic slowdown — services and hospitality — are disproportionately female.

This is one reason why Florida’s average unemployment rate in 2020 for women was higher than for men (8.4 percent versus 7.6 percent). The recession has made difficult family decisions even harder, as parents tried to balance virtual schooling, child care closures, and layoffs. Women often find themselves as the primary caregivers for children and other family members, and without accessible options for care, they often make the difficult decision to exit the labor market to care for others. As such, in 2020, the labor participation rate for women aged 25-54 in Florida dropped to its lowest point since 1987 (outside of the Great Recession) (down 1.4 percent from the previous year). Read more

5. Driver’s license suspension is an ineffective enforcement measure.

The collection of court fines and fees, which fluctuates with economic disruptions, natural disasters, and policy changes at other state agencies, is an unstable revenue source for Florida’s clerks of courts, according to an FPI report. Furthermore, the state’s use of driver’s license suspension as a compliance tool has created barriers to economic mobility and stable employment for Floridians with low income.  

With suspended driver’s licenses, Floridians who are unable to pay their court debt face enormous challenges, such as limited means of transportation to work and even exclusion from some workforce opportunities. State legislators should eliminate driver’s license suspension as a punishment for unpaid court fines and fees. Read more

4. Florida counties who are more well-resourced perform better along indicators of child well-being. 

The 2021 Florida Child Well-Being Index provides counties with an overall rank and measures performance across 16 indicators in four major categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Counties with higher rankings on the 2021 Child Well-Being Index tend to be well-resourced places, where families can afford to invest in things like high-quality child care, education, and other opportunities for their children. On the other hand, counties with lower rankings tend to be places that have borne the brunt of the state’s disinvestment in public services and where people face historic barriers to economic opportunity.

To boost the quality of life for Florida children, state lawmakers should expand basic households supports and invest in both affordable, quality early learning and health care. Read more

3. Florida’s domestic workers are paid 40 percent less than the state's median wage.

Florida’s domestic workers, a vital part of the state’s essential workforce who care for and provide in-home cleaning services to families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities, faced numerous barriers to fiscal stability even before the pandemic hit. These roadblocks — exacerbated by COVID-19 and the subsequent economic recession — include meager wages, unsafe and unstable working conditions, and lack of state and federal protections afforded other working people.

An FPI report found that domestic workers are paid a median hourly wage of $12.19, which is 40 percent less than the state median wage ($19.20). Read more

2. Florida’s unemployment insurance system is in dire need of reform.

Florida’s level of unemployment benefits, which is capped by the state Legislature at $275 per week, is among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the length of time that out-of-work Floridians can receive assistance, which is also set by the Florida Legislature, is much shorter than the national average. Although state leaders should have prioritized reforming the state's broken unemployment insurance system in 2021, they adjourned without touching the framework of policies that have undermined the system for years, and only approved legislation to begin fixing the onerous CONNECT system. Read more

1. Working Floridians in every county would benefit from the Working Floridians Tax Rebate.

Floridians who are paid lower wages spend significantly more of their income on state and local taxes than those with high income. This is because the state lacks a personal income tax and relies mostly on the sales tax to raise revenue. While often marketed as a “low tax” state, the truth is that Florida’s tax system is the second most regressive in the nation.

An FPI report found that enacting a Working Floridians Tax Rebate set at 20 percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit would benefit 2.1 million Florida workers, providing an estimated average rebate of about $500 annually. Read more

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