Florida reverses course, applies for $820 million in federal food assistance after DeStantis spox claimed it wasn't needed

Florida reverses course, applies for $820 million in federal food assistance after DeStantis spox claimed it wasn't needed
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, speaks with members of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., leadership during the governor's first visit to the base since becoming governor, Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Solomon Cook)

Florida has made the decision to reverse course and request federal funding for food aid. According to The Miami Herald, the state has announced its intent to access the $820 million in funding designated for children living in low-income households.

On Tuesday, September 21, Florida's Department of Children and Families announced it will apply for the funding. The decision comes weeks after the department repeatedly stated that the funds were not needed. The publication reports that the federal incentive would provide $375 for up to 2.1 million children next summer.

Department of Children and Families spokesperson Mallory McManus indicated that the office was seeking assistance "out of an abundance of caution ... to make certain that any possible gaps left by Commissioner Fried's program will not affect children."

She said, "The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, run by Commissioner Fried, is the agency charged with ensuring summer nutrition for students while schools are on break."

The announcement follows a statement last month from Gov. Ron DeSantis' spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, insisting the funds were no longer needed to due to schools returning to in-person learning. "Schools are not remote in Florida, and children receive nutrition directly from schools," Pushaw wrote in an emailed statement to the Times/Herald.

Advocacy groups are lauding the reversal. "This is wonderful news for the more than 2 million children who will qualify and for their families, who are still playing catch up from additional food costs incurred during the summer," said Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute, in a statement.

Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando, Fla.) also tweeted her reaction to the announcement. "Florida FINALLY applied for the (Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer) program," Eskamani tweeted. "Advocacy works y'all!!"

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