Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Floridians Must Have a Say In State Allocation of Federal ARPA Billions

Photo of smoke with caption: Billions in ARPA dollars are in Florida state coffers. Where are these billions headed? "Mum's" the word for Florida Legislators
Photo: Mulyadi via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

With ARPA billions still on the table, legislative conference committees are beginning to convene to negotiate the final state budget for fiscal year 2022-23.

The influx of federal dollars has been a lifeline for Florida’s budget. Just like last year, the House and Senate were able to avoid making deep cuts to public services in their respective budgets because federal COVID relief measures like the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) padded state coffers. It is disappointing that the public was again kept in the dark and given no opportunity to provide input as to how billions in ARPA funds are being appropriated.

Of the total $8.8 billion allocated to Florida in state fiscal recovery funds, $3.5 billion is yet to be allocated. Neither the House nor Senate budget proposals provide plans for how these funds will be used.

There were also no committee debates around best uses for these federal dollars.

Florida Policy Institute has made several recommendations for how these funds can be invested, including improving the state’s criminal justice system by fixing deteriorating buildings; restoring cuts to educational and rehabilitation programs at Florida’s prisons; and addressing the backlog of court cases at Florida’s Clerk of Courts.

One of the bright spots in the Senate’s budget proposal is language that would bring all state employees, plus some subcontracted providers, to a $15-per-hour wage. We encourage the conference committees to adopt the Senate’s proposal.

However, neither the Senate nor the House budget strengthen statewide wage enforcement measures, as SB 1756/HB 507 would do by creating a Florida Department of Labor.

State enforcement is critical given the gradual statewide minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2026 and this advanced timeline proposed by the Legislature. Without such provisions, we will continue to see a rise in wage theft as more low-income workers are paid a sub-minimum wage.

Sadaf Knight  has over 11 years of experience in public policy research, advocacy and nonprofit management. She is CEO of Florida Policy Institute

Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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