Florida – The State of Florida recently decided to reject $320 million in federal funding aimed at transportation projects. This decision by state leaders sparked a lot of debate, while several transit and environmental organizations in Florida went a step further and decided to protest this move in an effort to push Florida state leaders to change their decision.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) turned down the federal grant, citing its connection to climate change initiatives, which state officials deemed overly political. This happens when Floridians are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the state of Florida is experiencing more active storm seasons than ever.
Now, Florida leaders are most probably going to make the ‘same mistake’ again as the state decided not to take part in another federal program that would provide nearly $250 million to Florida in helping the state feed 2 million children next summer who might otherwise go hungry. The Department of Children and Families, the state agency best equipped to run the program, confirmed this decision to Governing.
“We anticipate that our state’s full approach to serving children will continue to be successful this year without any additional federal programs that inherently always come with some federal strings attached,” Mallory McManus, spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, wrote in an email to the outlet.
In December 2022, Congress gave the green light to the Summer EBT Program. This program aims to give nutritious meals to kids who usually get free or low-cost lunches when schools are open during the school year. 25 states, territories, and tribal areas have so far taken it up.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the program, which is a component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
There’s been some talk between officials in Florida and groups fighting child hunger, but Florida hasn’t chosen an agency to handle this program yet. They had until January 1 to join, but they haven’t, and it’s not clear if the deadline would be extended.
Sky Beard, Florida director of No Kid Hungry, confirmed that the state of Florida would have had to pay for half of the administrative costs to participate, which is about $12 million a year, but the state hadn’t approved funds for such a thing.
On the other hand, Florida has state-run programs similar to the federal ones. Some of these programs cover the exact same category of people—students—and Florida makes sure most of the venerable children have nutritious meals every day during the summer when schools are closed. According to Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, these programs include, but are not limited to, SNAP benefits, Summer Break Spot programs, and free and reduced lunch programs at school.
Florida is known for rejecting federal grants in recent years, especially during the pandemic that cost Florida taxpayers billions of dollars. Florida was among the few states that decided to opt out of the COVID-19 food benefits program two years before the program’s deadline. This decision alone costs Florida taxpayers at least $5 billion.
Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 also decided not to enlist in a pandemic food aid program for about 2 million children from low-income families that would have brought Florida $820 million. Florida taxpayers covered the cost instead.