FACT SHEET: Florida Communities Face Steep Budget Cuts to Education, Health Care Due to COVID-19

The ongoing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is severely impacting state budgets, including in Florida, which faces a budget shortfall of over $8 billion. This shortfall will lead to steep budget cuts — up to 19.5% according to one analysis, and potentially much higher according to other analyses — that will devastate Florida’s communities and working families. If spread evenly across the state’s budget, this would lead to devastating cuts to the state’s health care and education systems, as well as to local budgets for firefighters, police, and other first responders. 

President Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell could take decisive action to stop these cuts. But instead they refuse to provide additional funding to state and local governments for these vital services – including education, firefighters, police and other first responders.

Trump’s failure to lead at the federal level and DeSantis’s failure to follow the advice of public health experts have exacerbated the economic and public health crisis in Florida. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has continued to show leadership during the crisis and has laid out several plans on how to manage the public health and economic fallout. 

Assuming an 19.5% budget cut is spread out evenly across Florida’s departments and programs, Florida’s families and communities could see: 

A Steep Cut to K-12: 

Deep cuts to Florida’s K-12 system will further strain an already underfunded system. Already, Florida’s average teacher pay ranks 46th in the country, and its per-pupil spending remains far below 2008 pre-recession levels

Florida will have to cut up to $1.54 billion to the K-12 budget, even accounting for CARES Act funding, which means DeSantis will be forced to choose between cuts like the following:

  • Cut all full-time teacher salaries by up to $8,603, or nearly 18% of the average teacher salary in Florida. 
  • Slash annual per-pupil K-12 spending by up to $538, or around 7% of the state’s per-pupil spending. 

A Steep Cut to Pre-K: 

Budget cuts to the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program will devastate an underfunded system that currently ranks 42nd out of 43 programs nationwide in per-student spending. Nearly eighty percent of currently eligible four-year-old children utilize the program, and nearly 175,000 children currently enjoy the benefits of VPK.

Florida will have to make cuts up to $78 million to the VPK budget, which means DeSantis will be forced to choose between cuts like the following:

  • Remove up to 32,000 eligible children from the program
  • Reduce per-pupil funding for all students by up to $473

A Steep Cut to the Health Care Budget: 

Governments should be investing in health care funding during a global pandemic, not slashing it. Florida’s Medicaid system — in which 1 in 9 non-elderly Floridians participate — will see devastating cuts that will severely impact seniors, people with disabilities, and health care workers and providers.

Florida will have to make cuts up to $1.65 billion to the Medicaid budget, which means DeSantis will be forced to choose between cuts like the following:

  • Cut optional benefits by up to $1.65 billion, de-funding home and community-based services (HCBS). A cut to HCBS will imperil seniors and Floridians with disabilities, groups highly threatened by COVID-19. 
  • Cut Medicaid provider payments by up to $1.65 billion, including payments to physicians, safety-net hospitals, mental health facilities, and/or nursing homes. 

A Steep Cut to Public Health:

Florida’s public health system is under attack and can’t afford further cuts. The state cut nearly a quarter of the positions at the Department of Health over the last decade, and its epidemiologists on average earn less than those in other major states. 

Florida will have to cut up to $600 million to the Department of Health budget, which could threaten funding for services like substance abuse treatment for youth struggling with opioid addiction. 

Cuts to Local Budgets Affecting Fire Fighters, EMTs, and Police: 

With the shuttering of businesses around the state, local governments also face severe budget shortfalls. Cities all over the state — from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale to Jacksonville — expect significant budget holes. 

Cuts to local budgets will hit first responders hard. Over 50% of Miami’s general fund revenues go to the fire and police departments. Cuts to the police and fire departments in Tampa will threaten the secure employment of nearly 1,000 police officers and 622 uniformed firefighters in the city. 

NOTE ON METHODOLOGY AND ESTIMATES: 

Florida has not yet released official projections for the impact of COVID-19 on the state budget. This analysis uses Moody’s Analytics’ projection, which is the most reliable and specific available. Even though this fact sheet uses the “severe” Moody’s scenario, it is still a conservative estimate and underestimates the impact of potential cuts. Other projections, including both the CBPP and the bipartisan National Governors Association, estimate greater aggregate budget shortfalls than Moody’s.

This shortfall takes place through the end of the next fiscal year (June 30, 2021 for Florida), so it takes place over roughly one year. Moody’s uses FY2019 general fund revenues in their projections. This fact sheet analyzes potential budget cuts for the next fiscal year, but Florida may well have to make deep cuts in the short term to balance the budget this fiscal year or, alternatively, draw down reserves to prevent a shortfall, thus leaving the state less room to maneuver for FY2021. The education estimates take into account federal funding that Florida will receive under the CARES Act’s Education Stabilization Fund. 

These examples are intended to be illustrative only. Restricted receipts, local/state laws requiring certain spending levels, and other factors could impact actual impacts of budget cuts.