2014 FLORIDA UNITED WAY CONSENSUS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

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1 2014 FLORIDA UNITED WAY CONSENSUS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

2 2014 FLORIDA UNITED WAY CONSENSUS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FLORIDA S UNITED WAYS: ADVANCING THE COMMON GOOD Florida s 32 United Ways lead the state in investing private contributions, generously provided by people from all walks of life, in health, education, income and safety net initiatives that improve the lives of individuals, families and entire communities every day. United Ways are local people solving local problems with local solutions; people and communities that Live United. As with other for-profit and non-profit businesses, the decisions made by government affect the ability of United Ways and communities to implement solutions to their problems. Laws, rules, regulations, policies and appropriations have an enormous impact on how, and if, United Way can move forward with community leaders and partners to successfully address some of the biggest challenges facing our state. United Way supports a range of issues to advance its mission. The 2014 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda/ Platform represents our priorities for the 2014 Florida Legislative Session. GUIDING PRINCIPLES Florida s United Ways urge the Florida Legislature to apply these Guiding Principles as it considers budgetary and legislative issues during the 2014 Legislative Session: Budget Maximize revenues by accessing all available revenue streams and focusing state investments on cost-effective, proven programs. Local Control Support the authority of local government and locally approved entities to determine the best use of resources. Focus on Prevention To the greatest extent possible, orient spending to prevention programs that will save the state money in the long run.

3 EDUCATION, INCOME, HEALTH, AND SAFETY NET ISSUES: THE UNITED WAY FOCUS Florida s United Ways recognize that our state and our nation will thrive only if our people are healthy, educated, prepared and supported in their efforts to attain and maintain self sufficiency. Local United Ways work tirelessly every day to ensure that our communities thrive, and that supports are available for those who face life s toughest challenges. Each of the issues in the 2014 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda supports education, income, health, and safety net services that can transform our future. Education The first years are the most important in a person s life-long development. By the time a child is five years old, 90 percent of brain development has occurred. A safe, nurturing environment in these early years is essential to prepare children for later success in school, work and life. More than 50 percent of Florida s children under 6 years old attend a non-relational child care arrangement, usually because their mothers are at work. Sadly, less than 20 percent of child care programs in Florida are of good to excellent quality and up to 20 percent are considered inadequate (i.e. low quality programs that could actually be harmful to positve growth and development). Being able to read at grade level by third grade is considered the single most important factor in determining a child s future educational success. More than 60 percent of children ages six to eight spend an average of 21 hours a week in the care of someone other than a parent before/after school. If Florida is to improve third grade reading proficiency, these children need both high quality early learning AND after-school programs that improve school success. Income According to the US Census Bureau, more than 17 percent of Florida s 19.3 million residents live below the poverty line. That includes 25 percent of Florida s children, 14 percent of seniors, and 18 percent of the women in our state. In addition, more than 27 percent of jobs in Florida are low wage jobs that provide insufficient income to adequately support a family. United Ways recognize that assisting hard working Floridians attain and maintain employment and self sufficiency is not only good for the economy, but results in more stable and well-functioning families. Many low income Florida workers are able to maintain employment because of the assistance they and their families receive through federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and programs offered through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). As Governor Scott and the Sunshine State focus on Let s Get to Work, one of the best things we can do is support existing, proven programs such as those identified above that help Floridians find and keep their jobs. Health Good health is fundamental to a child s ability to succeed in school as well as to an adult s ability to provide for family, contribute to society and live a full life. Ensuring that people have the opportunity to achieve optimal health is core to United Way s mission and community focus. Florida faces many health challenges. According to a 2013 Commonwealth Institute report Florida is in the bottom quartile in almost every measure of healthcare performance, compared to other states. Only 53 percent of Floridians rate their health status as excellent or very good. Florida ranks 50th out of 51 states in the percentage of uninsured, with more than 20 percent of our 19 million residents without health insurance. Florida has the nation s second-highest percentage of uninsured children, with at least 500,000 of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens without coverage. When the uncovered adults and children do get care, many times in expensive emergency rooms, the exorbitant costs are passed on to all Floridians who have coverage through higher insurance premiums; in effect a hidden tax. It makes economic sense to ensure that as many Floridians as possible have access to affordable health coverage.

4 2014 FLORIDA UNITED WAY LEGISLATIVE ISSUES PRIORITY ISSUES Florida s United Ways will assume a leadership role in advocating for Priority issues in Tallahassee and Washington, and with the human services sector. Florida s United Ways will proactively lobby and bring visibility to these issues by dedicating resources to research, policy development, grassroots organization and advocacy. Quality Early Learning Research is clear: The foundation for a lifetime of success is formed during the first years of life. Even so, Florida s early learning and afterschool systems are plagued by insufficient funding, low quality programs and the inability of tens of thousands of children to access services that will help them succeed in school and in life. Florida s United Ways urge the 2014 Florida Legislature to provide access to high quality early learning programs for all children. Financial Stability for Florida s Future Assisting hard working Floridians attain and maintain employment and self sufficiency is not only good for the economy, but results in more stable and well-functioning families. Florida s United Ways urge Congress to reauthorize financial stability programs and to preserve and strengthen tax credits for low income households. Access to Healthcare Increasing access to affordable health coverage for all Floridians will improve educational outcomes, result in a healthier and more productive workforce, and prevent Floridians from paying hidden taxes through increased healthcare costs. Florida s United Ways urge the 2014 Florida Legislature to provide access to affordable health coverage for all Floridians.

5 SUPPORT ISSUES As the largest nongovernmental funder of health and human services across the state, Florida s United Ways support the efforts of our many community stakeholders, corporate partners and donors in their efforts to improve the lives of all Florida residents. Florida s United Ways may advocate for the following public policy issues, based on their local priorities: Education T.E.A.C.H. Support an appropriation of $4.5 million by the 2014 Florida Legislature to maintain TEACH excellence. EARLY STEPS Support Florida s commitment to the Early Steps program with an appropriation that is sufficient, at a minimum, to draw down all available federal funds. PARENT SKILL BUILDING RESOURCE LINE Provide and publicize a statewide phone line and website for parents to obtain up-to-date information about their children s development. MENTORING Support maximizing mentorship opportunities to benefit Florida s children and students. Income Health HOMELESSNESS Support dedicating a permanent source of funding for services that will prevent homelessness and help homeless individuals and families, and an appropriation of at least $3 million to support Florida s local Homeless Coalitions. SADOWSKI/AFFORDABLE HOUSING Support appropriating all monies in state and local housing trust funds exclusively for housing PREDATORY LENDING Support eliminating predatory lending practices, and strictly regulating lending activities targeted specifically at low income Floridians. HOME AND COMMUNITY-BASED CARE FOR THE ELDERLY Support maximizing funding for Community Care for the Elderly and maintaining its community-based structure. HEALTHY FAMILIES FLORIDA Support the $7 million dollar increase for Healthy Families Florida in the Governor s proposed budget to sustain quality and serve additional high risk families who need and want this critical program. HEALTHY START Support increased funding for Healthy Start. VETERANS Support efforts to clear the backlog in access to benefits for all returning veterans, and to improve and stream-line the benefits process to prevent future backlogs. BEHAVIORAL HEALTH - Support maximizing funding for adult behavioral health programs and remove funding restrictions to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Safety Net Support updating the 1998 OPPAGA study on Florida s information and referral services, and adjusting policy, law, and funding to streamline those services through more efficient use of the Florida Network. GUARDIAN AD LITEM Support a three-year strategy to ensure that all children in the dependency system are represented by a Guardian ad Litem as mandated by Florida Statutes, and appropriation of sufficient funds for first year implementation. BACKGROUND SCREENING Support ensuring that all volunteers and employees working with vulnerable populations are able to have their background screenings completed with as little cost as possible, and that their fingerprints are maintained in the Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse.

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