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Florida Lawmaker Wants Tougher Penalties For Welfare Recipients

A Florida Republican lawmaker wants to create more incentives for people who get welfare to look for work. The legislation passed a House committee Thursday.

Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, argues some Florida residents who get temporary cash assistance are looking for handouts. Eagle’s proposal would crack down on recipients who aren’t spending enough time doing job-related activities by extending the time they must go without benefits.

Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Titusville, said parents who aren’t developing job skills are creating another generation of poverty.

“Then what are they teaching their children," he said. "And what they’re teaching their children is to continue with those bad habits. Even if it’s unintended, that’s what they’re teaching their children.”

Karen Woodall, with the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, said cutting off food stamps and cash assistance for a month instead of 10 days for a first violation could make poor families homeless.

“There are huge gaps about how people know about the program, what they’re able to do, what’s available in different communities," she said. "And I’m sure that the last thing anybody wants to do is to put these families at greater risk then they’re already experiencing.”

It also adds a $5 fee to replace food stamp cards after a fifth is requested in a year. Eagle and supporters of the measure say works requirements are tailored to the person and they have to be good stewards of taxpayer money.

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Sarah Mueller is the first recipient of the WFSU Media Capitol Reporting Fellowship. She’ll be covering the 2017 Florida legislative session and recently earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield. Sarah was part of the Illinois Statehouse press corps as an intern for NPR Illinois in 2016. When not working, she enjoys playing her yellow lab, watching documentaries and reading memoirs.