Now more than ever, we need policies that expand affordable health care, paid leave, unemployment insurance, and other policies to support Floridians impacted by this economic crisis.
Access to Health care
Medicaid is especially crucial during economic downturns, enabling people to access coverage and care in times of financial hardship. Florida is one of only 14 states that haven’t yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover hundreds of thousands of Floridians who don’t currently qualify.
Studies have repeatedly shown Medicaid expansion would save thousands of lives in our state.
Florida should increase access to affordable health insurance by expanding Medicaid, drawing down federal money that comes directly from our tax dollars.
We should also reinstate a 90 day retroactive Medicaid eligibility period to prevent families who have lost employer coverage from facing crippling medical debts due to hospitalizations.
Lower Prescription Drug Costs
For families already struggling to afford care, the extra financial hit of coronavirus will mean many can no longer afford life-saving medication. Florida should create an independent authority, the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, that has the power to set affordable limits on what Floridians pay for their medications and give lawmakers and the public greater insight into how drugs are priced.
Access to Affordable Health care
Access to affordable health insurance is critical to financial stability and recovery from a public health crisis. And the people most likely to rely on individual coverage – gig workers, self-employed contractors – may be the ones hit hardest by the immediate economic impact of the pandemic. Florida should ask the federal government to open a special enrollment period on the federal health care exchange and expand benefits so that more Floridians can quickly access health coverage they need.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included protections to ensure that people with preexisting conditions could not be charged more for insurance, just because of their health history. But the ACA remains under threat, and if repealed, a loophole in Florida law means that more than 8 million Floridians with preexisting conditions could be charged more for their insurance. We need to close this loophole to prevent corporations from profiting off of people with preexisting conditions.
Expand Unemployment Insurance
Florida has some of the lowest wage replacement rates and unemployment protections in the country, despite high costs of living. Now, as the coronavirus crisis forces many out of work, unemployment is our frontline protection from falling into a deep recession. Money in Floridians’ pockets means money to keep our businesses and economy working.
Our state’s economy relies on jobs and businesses, like those in the service and tourism industries, hardest hit during times of crisis – so it’s more critical than ever that we update and expand unemployment insurance to support those impacted.
Although Congress passed a bill expanding federal unemployment insurance in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, those benefits are set to expire. We must act at the state level to expand benefits and streamline access to unemployment insurance to quickly help struggling Floridians.
Paid Sick Days
We need paid sick and paid family and medical leave – particularly for millions of workers in Florida’s service industries – so that workers can keep themselves, their families and their communities healthy. The spread of infectious diseases in essential workplaces puts all Floridians at risk.
Congress passed legislation to extend 10 days of paid sick leave to more workers nationwide. However, the bill doesn’t apply to companies with more than 500 employees, and firms with fewer than 50 employees can also request exemptions – leaving millions of workers without coverage. Florida should close this loophole and implement a mandate of 14 days of paid sick leave for all employers with more than 50 employees.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave
All Floridians should be able to care for their loved ones, particularly in times of crisis. And the closure of public schools and senior centers is putting massive pressure on working people to provide care at home. Employers should be mandated to allow eligible employees to take up to 20 days of emergency leave (paid or unpaid) if they have coronavirus, are quarantined, or are caring for someone with the disease without the risk of losing their job.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the state lost their jobs in the wake of coronavirus. To protect vulnerable people, we need a statewide moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut offs for six months. Florida should also urge phone carriers and internet providers to waive late fees and suspend service cut-offs.
Expanding Food Stamps and Other Benefits
An economic crisis will quickly become a food security crisis for our most vulnerable community members, including millions of struggling seniors on a fixed income and working families already living paycheck to paycheck.
Florida should increase funding for food banks, expand benefits and relax eligibility requirements for food stamps and other programs that allow Floridians to access basic needs like medical supplies and disinfectants along with food.
State Earned Income Tax Credit
A State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program supports the financial stability of low and moderate income workers – those hardest hit by economic downturns – by reducing their tax burden. This allows hardworking Floridians to get back more of what they earn. The state should create a state EITC program to put money back in the pockets of everyday Floridians.
Repeal the Corporate Refund
At a time when economic downturn threatens Florida families and small businesses, we should be investing in policies that help regular people – not huge corporations. In 2018 and 2019, the Florida legislature walked away from over half a billion dollars in new revenue by voting for automatic refunds of corporate taxes paid by big corporations.
Rather than offering huge corporations unnecessary refunds, we should put that money to work expanding programs that support vulnerable Floridians and their families during crisis.
Coronavirus offers a stark reminder that we must do more to strengthen access to our democracy even during public health crises. Florida should adopt much-needed voting reforms to expand vote by mail participation and cover postage and to extend early voting with more polling sites and hours.