Federal relief money is flowing from Joe Biden‘s Washington, and a group of congressional Democrats have programming ideas for Florida’s Governor.
However, the Governor’s Office has no plans to take them up on at least one of them.
U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson signed a letter Wednesday led by Lawson that called for, among other things, Medicaid expansion.
“Florida was expected to have a budget shortfall because of increased Medicaid enrollment and additional unemployment claims. Since Florida’s fiscal outlook has improved we request that you expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” the letter asserts.
“Under Medicaid expansion Florida would make significant ‘fiscal gains’ by replacing state spending with expansion funds. Given that Florida will be able to balance the state budget at the end of this legislative session, we believe expanding Medicaid not only makes sense from an economic perspective, but from a humanity perspective,” the Democrats wrote, contending that more than 850,000 Floridians could get coverage if Medicaid is expanded.
In terms of Medicaid expansion, DeSantis has followed the lead of his predecessor, now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who is invoked in the letter for his recommendation to return money not specifically earmarked for relief. DeSantis spokesperson Meredith Beatrice says no changes are imminent in terms of policy.
However, DeSantis has been willing to program relief funds for educational initiatives outside the purview of virus relief, including a $116 million civics education initiative and a $75 million workforce education push. Both of those will be programmed from the CARES Act-funded Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund.
The Governor defends his right to deploy the money as he chooses.
“We got this money dumped,” DeSantis noted in Naples, when he rolled out the civics push. “I could have just spent it and said it was emergency spending.”
While DeSantis doesn’t appear likely to budge on Medicaid expansion, Republicans elsewhere are more willing to explore the previously unthinkable as the federal government continues to turn on the funding jets with robust spending bills.
A more modest expansion is moving in the House. Speaker Chris Sprowls would expand Medicaid to mothers within the first year after birth via a new proposal estimated to cost $200 million.