Advocates: Florida Legislature leaves the socially vulnerable behind

PBPO News:

Legislators are proposing spending plans this year to boost funds for public schools and improve environmental programs. The House even allocated $690 million for tax relief.

However, programs for the elderly, disabled and those with Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as college students who need financial aid, are unlikely to change.

Nearly 36,000 seniors with low incomes are on the waiting list for long-term nursing homes. The best offer that state legislators can make is?

Give enough money to cut 1,223 people out of the queue for assistance.

“When there’s not much of an increase in spending for these services, these waiting lists just keep getting longer because the elder population in need is growing,” said Jaime Estremera-Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which serves as the Area Agencies on Aging for Palm Beach and four neighboring counties.

More than 5,300 seniors seek home care, meals and other services in the region.

Estremera Fitzgerald stated, “Unless we make a dent in the population, more and more people just keep coming on to these wait lists.”

Governor. While Rick Scott seems to have succeeded in getting lawmakers to keep the line on tuition at colleges and universities for a second year consecutively, financial aid is decreasing in legislative budget proposals.

The House student aid help is now at $427.2million, a decrease of $12.2 million over this year’s spending. The Senate is even lower at $419.9 millions.

Critics said that other aid is also mostly flat.

“We know there are a finite number of resources,” stated Tom Allison, policy researcher at Young Invincibles. This national non-profit organization advocates for increased state funding for education.

He said, “But we are talking to helping students and families still struggling to climb out the great recession.” “A lot of households are not saving as much as they used to.”

The Capitol has halted talks on a budget for the state starting July 1.

The standoff threatens to push the session beyond its May 1 deadline.

Talk of increasing the amount of money available for social services or students seeking financial aid is not possible.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) said that he was satisfied with the direction his chamber is heading when it comes to needy service funding.

Crisafulli stated that “We are making progress” and that is what he was focusing on. “As Florida’s economy improves, we will do more of this.”

Pafford, who spoke on the House floor, said that this was preventing revenue currently in the budget being used in a way that might reduce some of the state’s critical needs.

He was one of three House members, all Democrats, who voted against tax breaks.

Florida is home to the country’s highest number of over-65-year-olds. Many people seek the services they need because they have outlived their retirement savings, according to Robert Beck, who lobbyists in Tallahassee for aging issues.

Beck stated that Florida tells seniors to move here, and they do. It’s not that many people didn’t plan for retirement. They just didn’t plan to live as long and have exhausted all their resources.

He said that when they turn to the state, “they just get added on to the list.”

The Legislature can make spending decisions for people in need difficult, even when they have high-profile advocates.

Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando), Senate President, promotes legislation that advances education, savings, and employment opportunities for intellectually disabled people. Andrew is Andrew’s 11-year old son.

The Senate budget proposal directs more than $40million toward the state’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. This could help to remove about 2,000 people from a waiting list with around 20,000.

This is considered a significant step forward by supporters. Last year, however, the list was removed by about 1,260 people.

The Senate is also the top House member on long-term senior care, with 35,827 seniors on a waiting list. The House would allow Senators to spend between $18.7 and $6.3 million. The Senate removes 1,223 people from the list, while the House takes out 413.

However, Scott and the House in their budget recommendation finance less for services for disabled people and more for senior care.

Many analysts believe that the Senate is particularly weak in senior services.

The Senate budget allocates $500,000 to Alzheimer’s Disease services. There is a waiting list of 2,777 people for this service. $500,000 goes towards community care for the elderly. There is a waitlist of 34,625. Only a handful of people would be helped by the Senate’s spending in each area.

Karen Woodall, a veteran lobbyist who focuses on issues that affect low-income Floridians, stated that “it’s always about tax breaks.”

She said, “Those are the things which get the attention legislators.” “These services are needed by many people who don’t have the right to vote. Legislators know this.”