Ron DeSantis bashed for making Florida ‘only state’ not using federal child food aid program

ron desantis
Florida’s neediest families are missing out on about $820 million in child food assistance.

Florida Democrats are piling on Gov. Ron DeSantis with demands he reverse his “appalling” decision not to reenlist the state in a pandemic-era program to bring federal food aid to 2.1 million children from low-income homes.

Through his inaction, they said, DeSantis is blocking Florida’s neediest families from getting about $820 million in child food aid, which they could spend at local grocery stores and markets at a time when many families are suffering.

And according to these Democrats, he’s the sole holdout.

“It’s unacceptable that Florida is now the only state that hasn’t signed up for the federal funding we passed in our COVID relief plan to ensure that children don’t go hungry. Playing politics with hungry children is simply cruel,” U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who is challenging Marco Rubio for his U.S. Senate seat, wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Florida participated in the program, the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), during last school year. The state was estimated to have received $1.2 billion for more than a million kids who qualified for free or reduced lunch through June.

The program began under former President Donald Trump as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It was meant to help children who had received free or discounted lunches at school to be fed while studying remotely during school closures. It was also available to children up to age 5 whose families were enrolled for federal SNAP benefits over the summer.

In a May 27, 2020 statement, DeSantis said he applauded Trump and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for making the program available, even though the regular school year had ended. P-EBT, he said, allowed “states to identify gaps in service and develop new and needed programs that will help parents be reassured that their children will continue to receive healthy lunches.”

The USDA extended P-EBT through this summer under President Joe Biden and allowed it to continue afterward, enabling states that hadn’t signed up yet to do so during the regular 2021-22 school year.

This time, Florida didn’t apply.

The result has been a $375 shortfall per eligible child over the summer, with kids losing $2.26 for breakfast, $3.60 for lunch, and $1 for a snack daily.

“It is truly appalling that Florida is not taking advantage of a program that will help some of the most vulnerable children in the state,” Rep. Marie Woodson of Hollywood said in a statement. “It’s incomprehensible, and it is time we join the rest of the nation in allowing Floridians to benefit from this program.”

Woodson’s comment was one of several in a joint statement Thursday from the House Democratic Office, which said Florida is now “the only state in the country” to not request P-EBT funds.

“This is not a partisan issue. It’s about being a leader for all Floridians and making an investment in the health and wellbeing of children, our communities and the State,” Rep. Ramon Alexander of Tallahassee said. “Florida deserves better.”

So far, DeSantis’ administration has offered little explanation for why it hasn’t taken further advantage of the program, and he has remained mum on the matter.

His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, and Communications Director Taryn Fenske, did not respond to a Florida Politics query by press time. However, Pushaw’s comments to the Orlando Sentinel last month suggest his position is that kids don’t need the program because they’re back in school.

“P-EBT was created by the federal government last year to ensure children were still being fed while they attended school remotely,” she wrote. “As you know, schools are not remote in Florida and were not remote last year either. Children are receiving nutrition directly from schools.”

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Florida SNAP recipients lost about $280 million per month in additional federal benefits when DeSantis allowed the state’s pandemic state of emergency to lapse over the summer. Floridians lost another $300 million in federal unemployment benefits in May as part of an effort by his administration to get residents to rejoin the workforce.

The attention DeSantis has attracted for refusing to rejoin the P-EBT program comes while he’s embroiled in a legal battle over an executive order he signed June 30 barring schools from requiring students to wear masks on campus.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running to supplant DeSantis next year, lambasted him last month for “forcing parents to make terrible choices” between their children’s education and protecting them from COVID-19.

She later took aim at his decision not to pursue P-EBT aid.

“There is simply no reason why you should have ended — or be so far behind in securing — this critical federal assistance for our children that is being provided at no cost to the state,” she wrote in a letter, pointing out that it’s not too late to apply retroactively for the funds. “The people of Florida cannot afford for you to leave money on the table, especially when it means leaving food off their tables.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • giyipo2813

    September 10, 2021 at 7:09 am

    Here are 7 at-home jobs that pay at least $100/day. And there’s quite the variety too! Some of these work-at-home jobs are more specialized, others are jobs that anyone can do. They all pay at least $3000/month, but some pay as much as $10,000.

  • Wanda

    September 10, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Ron hates kids he tryed his best for the children to get Covid he has problems ,he needs to be voted out so vote blue in 2022 💙💯

    • Rose Large

      September 11, 2021 at 10:10 am

      Get rid of DeSantis

      • Exactly he’s no good for our state

        September 11, 2021 at 10:47 am

        Exactly he’s no good for our state. For sure he’s not gonna win the next election thank God !

  • Terry

    September 10, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Give them a fish feed them for a day
    Teach them to fish feed them for a life time

    • Bill Earnest

      September 10, 2021 at 4:00 pm

      That’s right, Terry. Send all those hungry 3,4 and 5 year old kids to fish for themselves. Give florida’s tax dollars to Texas or some other state to feed their non- fishing kids.

      • Heartstrings

        September 11, 2021 at 4:32 pm

        Oh Bill!! I like you.
        I tend to always appreciate people with common sense and candor!

    • Donald Giesler

      September 11, 2021 at 7:49 am

      You are correct, the democrats are using like bait the tax dollars to hook DeSantis to be on government dime with more federal restrictions to our liberties and freedoms in Florida. They the DNC have no moral compass and the more power they gain the more abusive they become..

      • Alex

        September 11, 2021 at 6:29 pm

        That made zero sense.


      • Melissa Scott

        September 12, 2021 at 3:36 pm

        Yeah that makes a lot of sense as kids starve, it’s all a conspiracy. Spoken like a true white male without a clue of reality for the majority of this country who are STARVING! But make sure you take a woman’s right to an abortion . Clown. Republicans, the biggest hypocrites.

  • Brittany

    September 10, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    This is such crap. The program was developed for families that had no choice but to remotely school their children. Schools are open. They have meals there. Why should the state continue giving out money to replace meals that children ARE being given? No ones keeping food from them. Instead of the schools getting funding for children as meals it went to parents. It’s no longer remote learning so it makes sense to go back. The state can’t provide funding for both schools feeding children and homes.

    You’re all mad at DeSantis for that and yet Biden didn’t re-up the unemployment benefits due to Corona.

    • Julie Rae Becker

      September 11, 2021 at 12:58 am

      He would not be giving out money. He would be accepting federal funds allotted for children all over the country.

      • Alex

        September 12, 2021 at 2:51 pm

        Julia, Brittany knows that.. she’s just a blinded republican that actually thinks this is a political issue. You see.. these people knew next to nothing about politics before Trump. And now.. they know even less.. but they THINK they do. That’s the problem. Imagine arguing against children getting money for food. And guess what.. even if Brittany WAS right.. what’s the harm in OUR KIDS getting excess access to food?

        • Susan

          September 14, 2021 at 11:07 am

          Thank you for making sense of all of this. These children need food and money. I’d like to see his kids go hungry.

    • Melissa Scott

      September 12, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      No, mad at DeSantis for the thousands of kids who are stuck home quarantining because he refuses to take care of children that are now starving. Stay in your bubble. Or better idea, all you conspiracy talkers, go live in your own damn state and let the rest of us get back to normal. Joke. A bunch of clowns running the government and you disciples following. #clowns

  • Liam

    September 10, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    He has so much pride I feel sorry for the government it’d coming to him he is gone regret not look out for Florida and the kids or anyone’ else God looking down on you government be careful be ir day is coming

  • Marian

    September 10, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    The state is LOSING money??????? But we, as people who live in this state, are SAVING money!!!! Who do you think is paying for the federal government’s fundings?. I commend Governor DeSantis for taking a stand for we, the people, must take the God-given responsibilities we accepted when we made the decision to have children. The government should be taking care of our COUNTRY so we can benefit from the FREEDOMS our warriors have fought for all of us. We don’t want our government to become babysitters—our positions as parents are to protect and live for our children. In my opinion, it is about time, WE, AS PARENTS, take on that responsibility!

  • Kelly Seagle

    September 10, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    I’m A brain injury and I can’t work so I’m on ssdi. The government is ok taking the extra EBT money away from us as the cost of everything go up. They give themselves a raise, spend millions on security for them and there family. Their kids go to special schools, not ones that parents send their kids to school positive because they have to go to work. Biden let’s drug lords and people positive for Covid and takes none of the blame on what’s going on. Enjoy the raise in your check. With all the people you all are killing and money your taking away from people who need it you all should be sleeping well.

  • Kelly Seagle

    September 10, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    And… give more money for the more kids that you have. If you don’t think people have more babies just for the money. Get a job in Labor & Delivery for a week! And if you think there’s anything you can do to keep the babies safe and not let them go home with them then you can say our system is not broken!!! If you have 2 kids and your on welfare then you don’t get more money for more kids! We will give you birth control that you don’t have to remember to take. Just think about the raise you would be getting then. I know you wouldn’t be thinking about helping the people let our homeless vets.

  • Con

    September 10, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Everyone looking for a handout, we worked to feed out children, pack them a lunch if you don’t want to buy it- I’m over everyone wanting free this, free that- get a job!!!!! 🤬

  • Carmen

    September 10, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    What’s wrong with this Governor De Santi, he’s not helping at all, he should be out from Governor.

  • Hilda

    September 10, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    It’s a shame he wouldn’t accept a program for kids he need to be impeach he is stupid

  • Bernice Jones

    September 11, 2021 at 7:52 am

    First DeSantis tried to kill all the kids off by blocking them from using masks at school. That didn’t work because it was unlawful. Now he’s trying to starve the kids to death. I wonder what do DeSantis have against kids.

  • Concerned Parent

    September 11, 2021 at 7:54 am

    Evidently Mr. D Santiago isn’t aware of the numerous classrooms of students who are being sent home from Covid exposure for 3 days or for the ones who have contracted Covid and must stay home 14 days. Have he been given the stats from the districts?

    • Concerned Parent

      September 11, 2021 at 7:56 am

      D Santis*

  • Linda

    September 11, 2021 at 10:58 am

    There is a lot of people have kids and that could work but will not go get a job . That is wrong. I hate what this world is coming to . If these parents would use the food stamp money for there kids and not sell them. I like this governor but he needs to think about this money to help the people that really need it there is a lot of older people that it help having that extra money to buy groceries . People will remember this on the day to vote. The democrats is doing this to make him look bad Be smart don’t fall for it

  • Jennifer Swiontek

    September 11, 2021 at 11:56 am

    These federal benefits are bought and paid for by WE THE PEOPLE who pay taxes and vote. The benefits should be available to any American in need. Not all needy people refuse to work. This is our money being paid to our government for our use. De Santis needs to listen to his voters or he will find himself out of a job! I am disgusted that politics is hurting families by our govenor failing to APPLY for P-EBT benefits. The states are not paying for benefits, WE ARE!!!

    • Alex

      September 11, 2021 at 6:31 pm


  • James

    September 14, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    Why are we letting red or blue split us apart? We are a nation of people!!! We don’t work for the government, the government works for us. It’s high time they realize that, but we must come together not let them divide us. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican. If you’re in office do the right thing and I will back you 100%

  • Rae

    September 15, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Our governor is not saying kids can not wear masks at school, he’s simply leaving it up to the parents. Which is our choice as Americans! I have 7 kids, it was nice to get pandemic food stamps but it’s not the government’s job to feed my kids! Half of y’all sound like a bunch of 7 year olds not getting your own way. Get a job and take care of your own family that you created!!!!

  • Bob

    September 22, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Governor DeSantis re-instate the E BT for the elderly as well no elderly person should have to worry about their health and food I am 85 years and my wife is 81 my wife only receives $698 a month social security with the price of everything it’s a real problem sir!!!!!

  • Sally Owens

    September 24, 2021 at 3:40 am

    Before President Biden divided the limited supply of monoclonal equally among the 50 states, FL was receiving a lion share of 70%. Now DeSantis is he “going to war” for a bigger share? The vaccine costs the federal taxpayers $30, the monoclonal treatment is $300. DeSantis’ biggest $ donor is also the biggest investor in monoclonal treatment centers. DeSantis continues to spread misinformation about the vaccine during his press conferences. Why?
    Because he profits from the $$ BILLIONS in hospital costs and fed assistance to the children they leave behind.
    Why did DeSantis leave $820 million on the table for school lunch program for low income families?
    Because children can’t vote and low income people are typically Democrats
    Real Simple People: Follow the money to know what motivates ALL REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704