Advocates for the disadvantaged say Gov. Ron DeSantis was short sighted in creating certain reserve funds that weren’t eligible for federal relief money, and then he vetoed $1.35 billion as part of the 2021-22 budget.
“These funds should have been used for things that directly benefit Floridians, like fixing the broken unemployment insurance system or implementing a state earned income tax credit,” said Sadaf Knight, chief executive officer for the nonprofit Florida Policy Institute.
DeSantis had vetoed the federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan — $1 billion for an Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund and $350 million for a “budget stabilization fund.” The $1 billion was the largest veto item in the state budget signed by DeSantis. And $350 million was the second largest.
The American Rescue Plan was passed by the U.S. Congress and approved by President Joe Biden in March to work towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeSantis said at a budget bill-signing that he had to veto over a billion dollars in federal relief funds from the 2021-22 budget following guidance from the federal level.
“The lion’s share of [the vetoes] is the federal money that was going to go to new emergency response fund,” he said Wednesday about the budget. “They said you can’t use it for the purpose that we wanted to use it for — to create a fund to meet needs in the future.”
The Florida Policy Institute released a statement Wednesday about the budget, concerned about the $1.35 billion in federal funds that the governor vetoed as a “short-sighted” move.
“We are disappointed, however, that the governor had to veto $1.35 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars,” Knight, wrote in the statement. “State leaders’ choice to earmark this money for Florida’s reserves — a purpose deemed ineligible under the recently-released U.S. Treasury guidance — was short sighted.
At a press conference Wednesday for the budget bill-signing, DeSantis said that the vetoed federal funds would instead be repurposed into other pandemic-related recovery efforts.
In March, Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who is known for rejecting federal monies, tweeted urging governors and mayors to return all federal money from the American Rescue Plan “in excess of their reimbursable COVID-19 costs.” At that time, DeSantis disagreed with that notion, saying that it “doesn’t make any sense,” Politico reported.