Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Sunshine State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.
Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond. The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.
These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions.
Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.
Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding. We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.
1) The percentage of the population living in poverty (14.9%) is above the national average. This includes 21% of children living in poverty, which is also above the national average. Florida has the 8th worst distribution of income in that nation. What effort is being made to address the issue of poverty and inequality in the state? Who is involved?
2) At 20.9%, Florida has the fourth highest number of uninsured people. The percentage of children living without health insurance at 14.8% is the 3rd highest rate in the country. Why is that? How many federal Community Health Centers are there in Florida, and where are they located? Is there any action to bring additional centers into the state and strengthen those already there?
3) There is no state EITC program. Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to have one?
4) The lowest 20% of income earners are paying 13.5% of their income in taxes. The highest 1% of income earners are paying 2.1% of their income in taxes. How is the tax burden on low-income individuals being alleviated?
5) 25% of jobs in Florida pay below the federal poverty line. This is above the national average. Is there any movement to introduce a living wage?
6) There is no state LIHEAP. Given the intensity of the heat in the summer and the costs associated with cooling homes, is there any movement to introduce a state LIHEAP? Only 5.6% of households are served by the federal LIHEAP Program. This is far below the national average of 19.6%. Why is the federal program serving so few Floridians? What can be done to expand outreach?
7) There are a large number of homes in foreclosure, in fact the highest number in the nation, as well as a high rate of homelessness. What are the programs that aid people in risk from losing their homes? Are those programs effective? What else can be done to address the issue?
8) The percent of eligible people who receive housing benefits is among the lowest in the country. The percentage of mortgage holders and renters that spend 30% or more of their income on monthly owner costs/rent and utilities are the worst in the nation. Is anything being done to increase the number of people who receive housing benefits? What is being done to create more affordable, low-income housing?
9) At 7%, the percent of families living below the FPL that receive TANF is among the lowest in the country. Is there any effort being made to increase participation in TANF?
10) Despite there being an above average level of food insecurity, there is a below average participation in SNAP. Why is this? Is anything being done to increase participation in SNAP?
11) Participation in the Summer Nutrition Program is below the national average. Is there any movement to increase participation perhaps through increasing advertising or the number of participation locations?
12) The unemployment rate is above the national average, yet of those eligible to receive unemployment insurance only 30% actually receive it. This is the 4th lowest rate of participation. Is anything being done to increase the number of people who receive unemployment insurance?
13) Pre-K spending per child is more than $2000 below the national average. Is there any movement to increase spending per child in Pre-K?
14) Florida’s high school completion rate is 20% below the national average. Why are so many students failing to complete high school? What programs are in place to support students in completing their education?
15) The number of people in prison in Florida is the 3rd highest in that nation, as is the number of people on probation. Is there any investigation into alternative forms of corrections and/or reducing the rate of recidivism?
16) What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?
Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected].
Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.