Florida: State Won't Use Its Money on Federal Programs

Friday, Oct 11, 2013  |  Updated 7:27 AM EDT
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The federal government shutdown that has already led to furloughed employees, closed national parks and commissaries could soon start to ripple through Florida's schools and state government.

The administration of Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday ordered all agencies to refrain from using any state money to cover expenses that are supposed to be picked up by the federal government.

The state has a $74 billion budget, but more than 35 percent of the money comes from federal funds.

Scott, a Republican elected with strong backing of tea party conservatives, put the blame on President Barack Obama and not on Republicans in Congress for the ongoing budget stalemate.

"We expect our leaders to resolve their differences and get this fixed," Scott said in a statement. "The buck stops with the president. He needs to get a budget deal done. This is about responsible governing. The president needs to call everyone to the table to get a deal done. That's what we do in Florida."

Adam Hollingsworth, Scott's chief of staff, said in a memo to state agencies that when the federal shutdown began Florida kept normal operations because it appeared the stalemate would be short-lived.

"Given that resolution has not yet been reached and uncertainty exists as to when or if a continuing resolution will be passed by the federal government, it is important we ensure that state funds are not committed as a temporary backfill," states Hollingsworth's memo.

Hollingsworth tells agencies that they should not transfer money from other programs to support unavailable federal funds. But he also asked that agencies give advance notice before they discontinue any federal programs.

Florida also on Thursday said it would not use state money to reopen shuttered federal national parks such as the Everglades National Park.

The Obama administration said it would allow states to cover the costs of operating federal parks and several states said they would go ahead and do that. But Frank Collins, a spokesman for Scott, said it was the obligation of the federal government to pay for the parks and that "Florida taxpayers will not foot the bill to cover Washington's failure to negotiate and compromise."

The Scott administration's decision to not "backfill" federal programs with state money won't have an immediate impact on all state-run programs that rely on federal funding.

Medicaid — the safety net health care program — has enough federal funding right now to continue to operate.

But other safety net programs — such as food stamps and welfare — will run out of federal money at the end of October, according to the Department of Children and Families. School lunch and school breakfast programs could also run into funding problems as well.

A legislative review prepared last week for Florida Senate leaders contends that small to medium-sized school districts could have problems meeting payroll after Oct. 14 because of their reliance on federal education aid. The Department of Education disputed that report and said districts received their federal funding back in July and have enough money to make it to the end of the school year.

But a DOE spokeswoman did not dispute that other federally funded programs such as vocational rehabilitation and blind services will probably have to stop making payments to vendors and providers next week.

Other state agencies could run out of money in the next 30 to 90 days to pay for employees whose salaries are paid with federal grants.

Some programs — such as the health care program known as Medicaid — have enough federal funding right now to continue to operate.
But a legislative review points out that many small to medium-sized school districts could have problems meeting payroll next week if the shutdown stays in place.
The state will run out of money for welfare payments and food stamps at the end of October.

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