Child care, health insurance and housing are ‘fiscal cliffs’ for Florida families

State and federal programs aimed at helping low-income Florida families aren’t working, according to a new report from the Florida Children’s Council.

“Positive child and youth outcomes, financial stability for families, and economic vitality for businesses are interrelated goals. There is clear need to rethink social service policy and align work-based solutions with child and family supports,” said Dr. Brittany Birken, CEO of the Florida Children’s Council. “These two-generational strategies provide a framework for developing systems that support strong child and youth outcomes within the context of family.”

The report, released Monday, studied the impact of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, block grants for school readiness, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid/Florida CHIP, and Section 8 housing vouchers on household budgets.

The combination of social programs were found to be lacking in the report, which concluded that if “children from low-income homes are to reach their full potential, there is a significant need to eliminate the current silos addressing adult-oriented and child-oriented programs separately.”

The Council report demonstrated the financial “break even” points for single adults without children and compared them to a household with a single working parent who has two children. Both models assumed the households were in Miami-Dade County.

The report found a household where a single parent earns $11,000 a year could “break even” through the use of social program, and the same was true as the parent’s income increased to about $40,000 a year.

Once past that mark however, net resources plummet – a single parent earning between $40,000 a year and $53,000 is likely to see negative income between $3,200 and $8,000 each year.

Single adults start to break even at about $15,000 a year in earnings, with incomes over $25,000 a year generally allowing them to have cash left over once their expenses are paid.

Such losses as a parent’s income rises were attributed to three “fiscal cliffs” –  children’s health insurance, child care, and housing. Each of those cost categories contributes to what the report calls “parking,” where a working parent is disincentivized from earning more money due tin order to maintain eligibility for social programs.

“Florida is a vibrant and growing state that has its share of opportunities and challenges.  To ensure that we secure paths to prosperity for all Floridians, especially the nearly one million kids living in poverty, we must focus on bold and broad strategies that consider two-generation approaches,” said Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation.  “Targeting policies that trap families in fiscal cliffs or create hurdles to self-sufficiency should be job one.”

Of the three cliffs, quality child care stood out as “perhaps the singularly most important social service in recognition of its impact on the entire family while providing clear economic benefit to employers and communities.”

“There are systemic barriers that hinder a family’s ability to become economically self-sufficient,” said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, chair of the Florida Children’s Council and Executive Director of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. “By strategically aligning systems of care, we can ensure that all children live in stable and nurturing environments.”

The Council’s findings will be addressed during the upcoming Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity And Economic Opportunity being put on by the Florida Chamber. The event will be held in Orlando on Wednesday and Thursday.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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