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New Florida law would address benefits cliff to promote self-sufficiency

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(The Center Square) — A bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis this week will help needy families receive additional help toward what the bill sponsor says will be self-sufficiency.

DeSantis signed House Bill 1267, which would revise the tenants of several commonly used public assistance programs in Florida. These programs include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Temporary Cash Assistance.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Adam Anderson, R-Tarpon Springs, and would address the “benefits cliff” that occurs when a household income slightly increases but results in the household losing its benefits. This can create a barrier to families and discourage financial self-sufficiency.

“The bill replaces handouts with handups, with the new School Readiness Plus program helping families get off these benefit programs completely,” Anderson said in a statement. “We want smooth transitions for those moving from public assistance to financial independence. No family should choose between a pay increase and receiving benefits.”

The bill’s analysis says the majority of program participants are children and adds that benefit cliffs “create a financial disincentive for low-income individuals to earn more income due to the destabilization and uncertainty that often results from a loss in benefits, especially when the benefit lost was essential to a parent’s ability to reliably work.”

The analysis further states that other barriers to financial independence for families include a lack of child care, education, and intergenerational poverty. Provisions in the bill include creating a case management system for families transitioning out of the TANF program.

Those participating in the program must provide proof that they are working or looking for work, taking part in a vocational training program, or going to school. Adult general education and high school equivalency exam preparation will now count towards these work requirements.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will expand the mandatory SNAP Employment and Training participation for adults over 18 who do not have children under 18 in their household or qualify for an exemption.

The School Readiness Plus Program will also be created to provide financial assistance to families, allowing parents to maintain access to affordable child care. The bill appropriates $23 million to the Florida Department of Education to implement the School Readiness Subsidy Program and will take effect July 1.