Gov. Rick Scott and his right-wing extremists in the Legislature are putting their hatred of President Barack Obama and health care reform ahead of Florida’s poor children. Their rejection of a modest federal grant that has helped dozens of families in Pinellas County and hundreds statewide shamefully values rigid political ideology over the well-being of our own residents. But such callous calculations do not reflect the values of Floridians, who should demand better.
Scott’s Department of Health has turned down a $4.9 million federal grant tied to the Affordable Care Act because the Legislature refused to allow the money to be spent. The Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas has used its share of last year’s money — which the Legislature approved because it was also tied to another federal program — to focus on parents with children who are born with drugs in their system. The mother or father, or both, work with a parent educator who can help them with all sorts challenges. It might be drug treatment or a job search, or parenting classes or housing, or finding a food bank or mental health counseling. Now 84 Pinellas families with 217 children will lose that help unless the Healthy Start Coalition can cobble together another solution. The message from Tallahassee: Tough. You’re on your own.