Rita Harris fighting for social services, cultural priorities

Rita Harris
Requests cover business needs through the Hispanic Federation and civic engagement via Digital Democracy.

The appropriations fight is often where Democratic lawmakers have the most ability to make a difference in a Republican-dominated Legislature. Rep. Rita Harris will spend the remaining days of Session fighting for social service providers in Central Florida.

“Right now, people are struggling between trying to pay their rising property insurance and the fact that Florida is higher than the national average,” the Orlando Democrat said. “For many, social services are helping people make ends meet.”

Her top priorities include budget requests for $200,000 to The Hispanic Federation and help for the Central Florida Diaper Bank.

The Hispanic Federation wants funding for Small Business Development for Latino Communities, which should help 600 business owners and individuals in Orange County working in underserved communities.

She also wants $250,000 for the Digital Democracy Project. That would pay for a civic engagement platform allowing individuals to vote by cell phone for county initiatives.

“This app may be accessed statewide, though it is being piloted in Marion, Monroe, and Orange counties,” reads a request from Digital Democracy Project founder Ramon Perez.Funding will aid in developing an off-the-shelf digital technology platform suitable for all counties beyond the pilot counties and conducting outreach to enroll 10,000 registered voters in the pilot counties.”

Harris’ budget priorities cover a wide range of needs in the area.

She wants $110,000 for SMART Academy, $446,000 for the Theater South Playhouse, $300,000 for STEM Teaching, Application, Rigor, and Training (START), and $195,000 for the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

That shows the desire to fund both social services and cultural institutions.

“As far as cultural needs, our community is becoming more diverse, and it’s essential that people feel seen and valued where they live,” Harris said. “Addressing cultural needs brings a community closer together.”

Other appropriations requests from Harris include:

$50,000 for the Orange County Track Chair Program.

$1..54 million for the Pan American Behavioral Health Services of Florida.

$500,000 for the Islamic Center of Orlando’s Community Center.

$850,000 for the Family and Child Resiliency Project.

$10 million for a building extension at the Muslim Academy of Greater Orlando – Building Extension.

$5.9 million for the Florida Food Waste Rediversion Program.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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