Suffer the Little Children
All eyes are on Florida recently as it hosts the quadrennial Republican National Convention. When many of us think of Florida we imagine DisneyWorld, South Beach celebs’ homes and romantic strolls on beautiful beaches with tropical cocktails in hand.
But, away from all of that glitz and glitter, Florida has big problems of the poverty sort. 1 in 6 residents are on food stamps, increasingly children. Florida’s problems are not something new, either, that can be chalked up to effects of a nationwide economic downturn. Poverty in the Sunshine State is long-standing and deep-rooted, with low rankings in nearly every indicator of child well-being, including teen pregnancy, low birth weight, high school dropout and child abuse rates.
Unfortunately, the Florida legislature is not all that interested in addressing any of those problems because . . . OBAMACARE!
Part of the Affordable Care Act is a group of programs called Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Programs which are designed to facilitate collaboration and partnership at the Federal, State and community levels to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children. Florida with its miserable statistics for child well-being seemed a natural place for an initial start-up of the program. After a year of careful needs assessments, five local “Healthy Start” organizations were awarded funds beginning last September. The full grants were for a five year program.
The most vulnerable families were registered, professional nurses, social workers, and teachers were hired, and by January 1 the programs were up and running: Pinellas County’s Healthy Start set out to help 100 families with children exposed to substance abuse; Putnam, Bradford, and Alachua focused on school readiness and parenting skills; Duval deployed nurses to nurture healthy pregnancies and economic self-sufficiency; and Escambia expanded its Healthy Families program to prevent child abuse and neglect.
To be perfectly clear, MIECHV is an evidence-based, cost-effective program proven to improve the health and development of at-risk children: the federal government was gifting Florida $31.3 million in total grant funding for 5 years of targeted home visitations, no strings attached and no match required. For every dollar invested in a program like this, up to $5.70 is returned to society in the form of reduced government spending like food stamps. Nevertheless, the conservative Florida legislature rejected the following four years of funding, because the grant was provided under the Affordable Care Act.
The only reason legislators applied for and accepted the first year of funding was because they had to apply for it to apply for funding that was more desirable to them—a slice of the Department of Education’s $100 million Race to the Top competition for early childhood education. It’s pretty clear that the Florida Legislature expected that the Supreme Court would rule “ObamaCare” unconstitutional which meant they’d have the first year “gateway grant” and the following four years would be a non-issue.
The Affordable Care Act was upheld in court, but the Florida House of Representatives refused to give the state’s Department of Health authority to draw down the $4.9 million second year funding despite approval from Scott and the Senate.
State Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples), told the Florida Independent:
Since we are not implementing the Affordable Care Act, we opted not to do that. If they bring it forward [again], we will reject it.
Hudson, the chairman of Florida’s Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, previously told the New York Times he supported Florida’s regular rejection of all things Obamacare: “I am not going to start implementing things that I don’t believe in.”
Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) told Highlands Today, in September, that such “government intrusion” causes communities and church groups to “lose our compassion.”
However . . . despite all of the bombastic rhetoric regarding “ObamaCare”, the Florida legislature has accepted a federal grant that restores funding for the State Abstinence Program. Appropriations authorized by the Affordable Care Act give the state $2.6 million per year from fiscal year 2010 through 2014.
So. Floridians—your tax dollars at work—no money for at-risk children living in poverty but plenty for crackpot, proven-to-fail contraceptive training guaranteed to balloon Florida’s statistics for at-risk children.