The Florida Legislature held several interim legislative committee meetings this week, developing issues for the 2020 Legislative Session that will commence on January 14, 2020.
The most notable issue we have to report this week concerns the Florida House of Representatives initiative to review every agency’s Base Budget. The House is cautiously calling this initiative, a ‘Reprioritization Exercise’, not a ‘cut’ exercise. In Chair Magar’s comments, she stated it was the committee’s intent to review all current base budget spending and prior legislative decisions and priorities and to examine ways to reprioritize spending to address current priorities.
A similar ‘Reprioritization Exercise’ was conducted by the House Appropriations Committees several years ago, with then Health Care Appropriations Committee member, Representative Erin Grall, assigned to review the DOEA budget. Many of you will remember that our collective advocacy efforts led Representative Grall to recommend NO cuts and NO Redirection/Reprioritization of DOEA-funded programs including Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly, Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative and Local Service Programs. DOEA was the ONLY department for which no changes were recommended.
Fast forward to today – several years later, a near complete turnover of Appropriations Committee membership, a DOEA budget that’s grown by over $35 million in additional General Revenue, and the need to Educate and Advocate about the importance of the Aging Programs and Services administered by Florida’s Aging Network!
This year’s ‘Reprioritization Exercise’ includes ‘Target Amounts’ of funding that the committee members must identify for ‘reprioritization’. For the Health Care Appropriations Committee, their ‘reprioritization target’ amount totals $654.4 million.
Linked below are the instructions to House Appropriations members for how the budget ‘Reprioritization’ process is to be carried out. To be clear, the ‘reprioritization exercise’ is not being phrased as a ‘cut’ exercise, HOWEVER, if committee members determine that funding for other programs including Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly, Alzheimer’s Respite Care and Local Service Programs is no longer “the highest and best use of state resources” funding for these critical home and community care programs could be ‘Reprioritized’ for other use. House Budget Reprioritization Exercise Instructions
I’m sure you’re asking, “How can I help? What can I do?” Well, for the next 13 weeks, we can work together to educate the Appropriations Committee members of the value and importance of programs administered by you and the Aging Network. Legislators will have what is considered a minimal budget surplus entering the 2020 legislative session totaling just $259 million. The good news is we still have a ‘surplus’; the bad news is the surplus is minimal. Please reach out to your local legislators and invite them to visit your provider agency, to meet the seniors you serve and to help them understand the value of the services you provide in your local community. Share with them your provider agency’s success stories, tell them about the people you serve, their age, their frailty, their needs. Help them understand who you are serving and why. Education and advocacy begin at home before your legislator and their staff step one foot into the state capitol. A letter to your legislator, an email, a phone call, or a discussion with legislative staff by you or your board members, regardless of the method of communication, is critical.
Many of you remember former FCOA President Bill Aycrigg, retired CEO for CARES, the CCE Lead Agency for Pasco County. I remember Bill’s approach to advocacy and the tool he used was a simple 2-ring, laminated flip chart that introduced five of their existing clients. Each page had the client’s photograph and brief history of who they were, why they were a CCE client, the services provided, and a brief description of their needs. Bill presented his advocacy message to House Speaker Will Weatherford in perhaps the most effective way I’ve ever encountered in my years of advocacy.
The 2020 Legislative Session could be a defining moment for Florida’s flagship home and community care programs as legislators examine the value and purpose of every single program funded by Florida’s $92 billion dollar budget. Programs such as Community Care for the Elderly help frail, lower income seniors remain at home safely and with dignity by providing critical help and care at home. The dedication our service providers and their staff demonstrate every day to helping those seniors entrusted to their care is unparalleled. We need to get this message out particularly during this House Health Care Appropriations Committee budget reprioritization initiative.
Do what I do and Be Like Bill – share your agency’s client success stories with your legislators and tell them how critical increased funding is for the Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly, Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative, and Local Service Programs.
Robert S. Beck
PinPoint Results, LLC