Florida ranks among lowest in government aid for needy

floridaA disturbing study released by the New York Times used 2008 statistics to reveal that, in some states, the eligible needy receive far less government assistance than those in other states. Jackie Dowd (author of ‘the 13th juror’ blog) compiled a Florida-focused synopsis of the results, all of which point to the issue that needy neighbors in the state of Florida may be lacking in benefits just because of their Sunshine State residency:

Only 7% of poor children and parents in Florida receive cash welfare. In Vermont, the top-ranking state, 49% do. The national average is 21%.
Only 23% of eligible Florida households receive housing benefits. The national average is 30%.
Only 30% of uninsured poor adults in Florida are covered by government programs. Maine, the highest-ranking state provides health-care coverage for 69% of its poor adults. The national average is 41%.
Only 56% of uninsured low-income children in Florida are covered by government programs. No state covers fewer than half of its low-income uninsured children. The national average is 73%.

Jackie points out that Florida was not among the lowest sources of support in all areas, however. For example, Florida provides food stamps to 62% of eligible citizens. Even still, this is below the national norm of 67%. In addition, Florida provides unemployment benefits to 38% of the unemployed workforce, which is still below the national average of 44%.

After reading these troubling rankings, you may wonder why some states fair better than others. The study provides mini-explanations, which we have localized specifically for the state of Florida:

Welfare: Individual states must pay for welfare costs; therefore “poor Southern states” have a tendency to deny benefits to eligible recipients. We question whether Florida can be considered a “poor state” and wonder if this is a valid excuse for our low ranking.
Unemployment: Southern states are again specifically mentioned, this time for typically maintaining weak unions and low wages. In terms of low wages, Florida’s service economy with low-paying jobs certainly fits this bill. According to the study, this tendency correlates with how many workers receive unemployment benefits.
Housing assistance: Florida’s recent population growth, in the midst of a peak in construction, means that our state (and others with growing populations, like Arizona) are out of luck for subsidized housing.
Food stamps: Florida ranks almost-average in this area, possibly because the federal government (and not the state) is responsible for funding the food stamp program.
Health insurance for poor adults: This program is noted for having particularly high costs, with individual states paying a high portion of the price. Since Florida coming in below the national average for adult health insurance coverage, this seems to be a low priority for the Sunshine State.
Health insurance for poor children: Providing health insurance for children is cheaper than providing the same coverage for adults, and thankfully, the federal government bears a bigger share of the burden. Perhaps this is why 56% of eligible children in Florida are covered in this program, whereas only 30% of uninsured adults (who cost more) are covered.

At a time when more and more neighbors are struggling to make ends meet, we can only hope 2009 statistics will reveal more available help for Florida’s needy.