TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Children and Families is expected to see a nearly 18% increase of Floridians on welfare, data from February shows.
According to the data, which was published by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, around 33,862 households or 64,109 individuals are expected to use welfare programs this current fiscal year.
The households or individuals in question are given support by the state through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the federal welfare system. Each state in the U.S. has managed its program individually since the mid to late 1990s.
In the previous fiscal year, Florida’s welfare agencies saw a 30.5% decrease in residents using their services, from 41,435 to 28,810. Since the previous year, the EDR reported a 6,500 person increase in families in need of welfare, and expects a near 5% increase the year after.
The four purposes of the TANF program, as set by U.S. Congress, are to:
- Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.
- Reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.
- Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
- Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
“The TANF program was created in the 1996 welfare reform law. In Florida, the 1996 legislature passed the Work and Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency Act in anticipation of passage of federal welfare reform,” according to DCF. “The federal legislation was enacted on August 22, 1996 as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Florida implemented the TANF program on October 1, 1996.”
Under current law, to qualify for TANF in Florida, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be a resident of Florida, and a U.S. citizen, legal alien or qualified alien.
- You must be unemployed or underemployed and have low or very low income.
- Have a child 18 years of age or younger, or
- Be pregnant, or
- Be 18 years of age or younger and the head of your household.
As far as those receiving payments for assistance by TANF in Florida, EDR reported that the forecasted number of TANF families receiving assistance with an unemployed parent was 418.2% higher than the previous year, and a 390.9% expense increase.
In Florida, the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported there were as many as 29,390 TANF families with no adult family members, meaning minors were the recipients and/or head of household, for the 2020 fiscal year. In total, Florida had 30,485 TANF families that year.
Almost 80% of the households receiving TANF benefits in Florida had no parent in the assistance unit, while the national percentage was 50.7%.
For Florida families, the economic conditions have played out as an increase in beneficiaries.
State documents show the number of TANF families increased 30% in December, year-over-year. Month-to-month from November, the number of families rose 11.6%.
The number of clients, a separate statistic, increased by 60% according to the same data set. While there were 36,601 TANF families in December 2022, there were more than 71,400 clients, equaling a 14.6% increase just that month.
There were even more in January 2023.
According to the data from DCF, there were 38,969 TANF families to start off the year, a 45.5% annual increase. Looking at individual TANF clients, there were 77,599, an 82.9% increase from the year before, or an 8.6% monthly increase in January.
Documents published by DCF reported the state served 56,682 families over fiscal year 2022, accounting for $96.51 million in state expenditures for the program’s provisions.
Analysis of state spending for TANF in Florida breaks down the expenses by category. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that in 2021, Florida spent $853 million under TANF programs, but only 19% was spent on basic assistance for TANF families.
The DCF submitted a budget request document for the legislature to review during its planning process for the coming fiscal year. The DCF wants to reduce TANF Cash Assistance program spending by more than $31 million, citing its intention of use as a “temporary benefit limited to 48 months with limited hardship exemptions.”
The DCF budget request said by reducing the budgetary amount, funding requirements would shrink by 22%.
Expenses for the Welfare Transition Trust Fund would make up part of the reduction, accounting for roughly $5.5 million, as well as reducing a match spend of $25.6 million from the General Revenue for the Cash Assistance appropriation, according to the budget request record.
Similarly, a February summary by the EDR focused on the fiscal needs of the state’s social services programs said Florida’s expenses for welfare would be $17.4 million more than the current appropriation, and a full $27 million higher than what was predicted in July.
Data for February’s DCF clients showed Florida had 74,737 TANF clients who received benefits. The state spent $10.73 million in that month for those beneficiaries. It spent an additional nearly $600 million helping over 3.2 million families with food assistance payments in February as well.
Increases in expenditures are happening amid an ongoing streak of inflation across the U.S. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in an update last month that even with increases to funding, cash benefits aren’t keeping up.
“Despite recent increases, cash benefits are at or below 60% of the poverty line in every state and below 20% in 15, mostly Southern, states” CBPP reported.
Those states are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
While 15 states raised their cash benefit amounts from July 2021 to July 2022, the most recent time period CBPP has data for, Florida was not one of them. Instead, Florida is among 16 states that either did not increase benefits, or have cut benefit levels from 1996 to 2022 by at least 45%.
However, the majority of states in America have not made increases to TANF benefits that have lost value in the face of inflation over the same time period, since management of welfare programs shifted from federal to state control.