Lawmakers eye spending an additional $270M on services for refugees
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The Gov. Ron DeSantis administration supports the increased funding, most of which is paid for with federal dollars.

Florida legislators are poised to sign off on spending close to $270 million to provide services to immigrants, including money that would be used to help 51,000 refugees who have resettled in the state obtain health assessments and immunizations.

The Gov. Ron DeSantis administration has asked the Legislative Budget Commission to approve the spending, with most of the funding coming from the federal government.

Most of those in line to receive health assessments and immunizations — 31,000 people — are living in Miami Dade County, which — as of two months ago — didn’t have available appointments before August 2024.

Without additional funding, the refugees won’t be able to get those immunizations within their eight-month window of eligibility. As a result, the budget documents show, they “could put the health of all Floridians at risk from the spread of communicable diseases.”

The legislative budget panel has been asked to let the Department of Health (DOH) spend an additional $33.4 million in state and federal dollars to expedite the appointments. The DOH plans to increase part-time staff in all county health departments, increase pay for some health care providers in the MDCHD, and contract with outside providers.

The federal Refugee Resettlement Program was created to help resettle refugees and to assist them in quickly becoming economically self-sufficient after their arrival to the United States. In Florida, the program is administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) but it delegates the responsibility of administering the health care services to DOH. 

The 51,000-person waitlist was based on July data, according to the budget documents, and could have increased since then.

Thirty-two county health departments across the state provide health assessment and immunization services to eligible clients. Specifically, lawmakers have been asked to allow DOH to spend $15,470,615 from the County Health Department Trust Fund and another $17,930,200 from the Federal Grants Trust Fund.

The Legislative Budget Commission is established in the constitution as well as statute. It is composed of seven members of the House of Representatives and seven members of the Senate. The Commission is required to meet at least quarterly.

In another item, the Commission has been asked to authorize DCF spending nearly $237 million to assist Cuban and Haitian refugees become economically self-sufficient and integrate into communities. The money will be spent on two programs: the Refugee Cash Assistance Program and the Refugee Local Services Program.

The cash is available for refugees who are ineligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Qualified refugees can take advantage of the cash assistance for one year. It is estimated that 100,000 recipients a month will tap into the benefit during Fiscal Year 2022-23.

The local services program provides clients access to a range of services, from employment assistance to vocational training to child care. According to budget documents, the local services program, which is administered by local not-for-profits that contract with DCF, also receives targeted funding for Afghan humanitarian and Ukrainian parolees. The program is projected to serve an average of 124,000 recipients in FY 2022-23.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

One comment

  • Don’t Look Up

    September 9, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    Let’s work with the Feds to get the refugees green cards so they can work. Nationally the USA has 11 million unfilled jobs! It’s obvious that with such low unemployment and so many unfilled jobs we need more immigration.

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