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Why are Florida legislators rejecting federal child abuse prevention dollars?

Since federal health care reform was passed, Florida legislators have turned down millions in federal funds that would have gone to home visiting programs that aim to fight child abuse and neglect. According to new reports, Florida leaders say they have declined the funds because the state is currently a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the federal government over the very law that allocates the funds. #

According to Healthy State, state legislators are rejecting the state grants for three reasons: #

  • “Because the state is in litigation as lead plaintiffs against the federal government and the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the State of Florida is refusing funding derived from the health law.”
  • Because the state “is suspicious towards federal monies.”
  • Because the state “already has in place home visiting programs through Healthy Families and Healthy Start. The Legislature felt that by taking the federal funds, it would be duplicating services already in place with added administrative requirements and costs.”

Healthy State reports that Katie Betta, communications director for Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said the Legislature “has a well-established policy of not implementing any portion of federal heath care reform through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” #

She also said that the legislators’ suspicion of federal dollars comes from the belief that “there are always strings attached” to the money. As the Independent previously reported, Gov. Rick Scott’s office sent a request to legislators signing off on the money because, according to the governor, there were no strings attached. #

Brian Burgess, communications director for Scott’s office, told The Florida Independent that in the specific case of the home visiting grants, “the federal funds would not have obligated Florida beyond the Home Health program, so under those circumstances, the Governor is more comfortable accepting the funds.” This was pointed out to legislators in a memo sent to legislators from Scott’s office. #

The state has also not been consistent in funding the state’s standing home visitation programs. Healthy Start and Healthy Families have suffered state cuts in the past few years. Child advocates in the state have argued that these federal funds would have provided much-needed relief to those agencies, which are currently stretched thin due to a decrease in state resources. #

Some have claimed that because of the denial of these home visiting grants the state is poised to lose out on Race to the Top education funds. However, this is unclear. Healthy State reports that the state may still be eligible for the “$100 million federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant.” State agencies are now looking into whether the state will be losing out on even more federal funds:**** #

“At this time, we’re working to verify this with the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education,” says Dr. Brittany Birken, CEO of the Florida Children’s Services Council. #

#

“The final criteria for the Challenge grant has not yet been determined,” she notes, including whether or not a state match of funds will be required. More detail is expected in August. #

Other states involved in the case against federal health care reform have accepted funds from the law. #

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