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How policies impact families in Florida

Family on Beach in Florida
Family on Beach in Florida

Lawmakers will meet in Tallahassee in one week on March 7 for the start of this year’s legislative session. During that time, they’ll pass bills that will affect you and your loved ones. WMFE's Talia Blake talked with Florida Policy Institute's CEO Sadaf Knight about how some policies impact Central Florida families.

Sadaf Knight is the CEO of the Florida Policy Institute. (via Sadaf Knight/FPI)
Sadaf Knight is the CEO of the Florida Policy Institute. (via Sadaf Knight/FPI)

Some policies help, but not all

The legislative session is just one week away and during that time lawmakers have to pass a state budget.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed Framework for Freedom budget which includes tax holidays on children’s books and toys, disaster preparedness and more.

But, FPI CEO Sadaf Knight said these tax holidays don’t help families long-term.

"When you look at the research, only about one in five Floridians actually takes advantage of them, they don't really provide that sustained benefit to families."

Although some tax holidays do benefit families, Knight said they are not the most targeted ways to address the challenges that parents are facing in Florida.

"A lot of legislation that's proposed does use the language of making things better for Floridians, making things better for families," she said. "And when you look at what the policies actually entail, and who really benefits, sometimes that messaging doesn't match up with the reality."

Knight points to SB 102, which is a housing bill filed for the upcoming legislative session, as an example.

"When you look at the mechanisms that are in that bill, do they provide that direct relief to renters, and homeowners who need it right now, who are facing housing insecurity, a lack of affordable and safe housing right now? There's there's not really provisions in there to do that directly for Floridians."

The proposed legislation seeks to incentivize private sector investment into affordable housing, encourage homeownership and affordable rental options, and prevent local governments from imposing rent control ordinances.

Price of Education

In January, Florida House Republicans filed HB 1 that would expand who is eligible to receive a school voucher scholarship.

Knight said that could cost upwards of $4 billion.

"And that's coming directly out of public school budgets."

Families who send their children to public schools will feel the fiscal impact of that loss, according to Knight.

"And what does that mean? It means an inability to hire and retain teachers, have the right resources in place for our kids to meet their educational needs and facilities and programs that enhance education."

Knight said that will create a tough situation for some families.

"So what this is going to do, unfortunately, is create a situation where parents who can afford it, will be able to supplement for their children, provide those services outside of school, or just send their kids to private school."

But, she said for families who rely on public education, "they're going to see a diminished quality and a real catastrophic impact on what kinds of services and education that our public schools can provide."

Policy Interventions

The Covid-19 Public Health Emergency ends May 11, and will end continuous coverage for Medicaid among other things.

Knight said policy interventions like the child tax credit and stimulus payments that were passed during the pandemic kept millions from falling into poverty.

"And I think what it really shows is that these policy interventions really do help families. They really do provide that boost that keep them afloat, and help them to stay active in the economy."

She said as these interventions continue to come to an end, families will look to fill that gap.

"What we might see coming up is just cutting spending, finding ways to cut back on their personal budgets, relying more on debt, like credit and things like that."

Knight said the potential recession could also contribute to how families address their spending in the near future.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
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