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Millions In Free Clinic Funds Vetoed

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Rick Scott single-handedly vetoed funding for a 10-page list of local and statewide projects that legislators hoped to included in the state’s 2015 budget. The cuts totaled $461 million from the $78 billion state budget.

One area where Scott’s cuts hit particularly hard: health care for the poor. Among his bigger cuts was $9.5 million for the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, which supports free and low-cost clinics that provide health-care to low-income communities across the state.

According to the governor’s letter pronouncing his budget plan, which he boasts will save Floridians money on their cable and phone bills, the line item for the free clinics was cut because it’s not being used directly for “services.” Therefore, it is not considered a statewide priority for improving cost, quality and access to healthcare.

However, according to the clinics, the money was to be used to make grants available to help clinics expand their capacity and serve 25,000 new clients. In other words, the organization says it met all the criteria for being one of Scott’s alleged statewide priorities.

In a statement released right after Scott made his announcement about budget vetoes, the association expressed dismay.

“Yesterday’s decision de-funded the free and charitable clinics,” it wrote. “We never imagined it could happen. We are in shock. We feel terrible for our 87 member clinics, for their legions of volunteer doctors and nurses and countless other health professionals, for their loyal community partners, and most of all for their patients – the ones they serve now, and the ones who will not be served because of this decision.”

Erin Sullivan is a reporter with WMFEin Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.