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Florida lawmaker hopeful state will receive federal early childhood funds despite Affordable Care Act suit

According to Healthy State, state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, a member of the Legislative Budget Commission, expects that the committee will accept the millions in Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program grant money allocated to the state by the Affordable Care Act.

The home visiting grants were awarded to the state of Florida to fund child abuse and neglect prevention programs. Even though Gov. Rick Scott approved the grant, the Legislature rejected it because the state is in litigation with the federal government over the federal law allocating the funds.

Besides the loss for groups like Florida Healthy Families and Florida Healthy Start, the state could also lose $100 million in federal early learning education grants.

The state did, however, approve money from the Affordable Care Act for abstinence-only education, an inconsistency that has drawn criticism from other members of the state Legislature.

One of the other members of the Legislative Budget Commission, State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, told The Florida Independent that because the money is still allocated from the Affordable Care Act, the Legislature will yet again reject the funds.

But Healthy State is reporting that one of the four Democrats on the committee (there are 10 Republicans) believes that the grant will finally be accepted anyway:

“I think I can predict this will pass,” said Rouson. “The bigger objective is to be eligible for the $100 million ‘Race to the Top-Early Challenge’ grant.”

“In the end, I want us to do the right thing about health care for our vulnerable,” said Rouson.

He said he will return to Tallahassee on Sunday and begin calling his colleagues on the Commission to discuss September 7th’s agenda.

Governor Scott will be attending that meeting to advocate for the release of funds.

“I’m not going to question the heart motives of the Governor on why he’s coming back to us when it was soundly rejected before because I’m going to celebrate the result, the eventual impact of what the acceptance of these dollars will mean,” added Rouson.

He said when the program was denied in June, he received calls from his constituents expressing their disappointment.

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, told the Independent that she hopes the $100 million for education will be a sufficient incentive for the Florida Legislature to reconsider its rejection of the grants.

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