Despite improving economy, Florida officials predict family aid to increase



(The Center Square) — Despite an improving national economy, Florida officials predict temporary aid to needy families will increase for the next four years due to larger-than-expected program use by immigrants lacking permanent legal status.

The data was released by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which is the research arm of the Legislature that issues economic and social trend forecasts that affect policymaking, revenues and appropriations. The group holds conferences periodically to brief lawmakers and other state officials.

The Social Services Estimating Conference predicts an overall caseload and expenditure forecast higher than the February forecast for the next four years before leveling off in fiscal 2027-28.

One of those programs, the Unemployed Parent program was increased significantly due to a “sharp rise in non-citizen applicant activity.” The conference prediction is for cases to increase 42.1% from 6,588 cases covering 20,979 persons to 9,363 cases covering 30,132 persons. The conference said that “proposed policy changes at the federal level may further impact future projections.”

This comes despite economic indicators showing a resurgence nationally.

The National Economic Estimating Conference released data on Friday on the health of the U.S. economy, both at present and looking ahead.

According to the data, the U.S. Real Gross Domestic Product output has grown since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic from $19.6 trillion in the third quarter of 2021 to $20.2 trillion by the first quarter of 2023, a growth of 2%.

In the same period, total nonfarm jobs grew from 147.2 million to 155.2 million, while the unemployment rate improved from a dismal 5.1% to 3.5%. Florida’s unemployment rate is at 2.6% as of May 2023.

Conference documents also noted that the national civilian labor force has grown from 161.5 million between 2021 and 2023 to 166.8 million, while labor participation rates rose nine-tenths of a percentage point to 62.6% from 61.7%.

Nationally, inflation is still rising despite slowing down slightly in recent months. The consumer price index has risen every quarter since 2021, averaging 6 to 8 percentage points and peaking in the second quarter of 2022 by almost 10 percentage points.

Mortgage interest rates have also been steadily rising, increasing from 3% at the end of 2021 to 6.5% by June 2023. Interest rates are projected to rise again in the third quarter by 0.3% before easing downwards again.

Currently, the federal surplus is running at a deficit of $1.6 trillion, a slight improvement from mid-2021 where the deficit was at $2.3 trillion, but still much higher than the second quarter of 2022 which had a deficit of $879.9 billion. Florida’s surplus is currently around $20 billion, with a $1 trillion economy and because of this, Floridians have some of the lowest debt per capita in the U.S.

Conference projections show that well into the second quarter of 2025, the national deficit will remain the same, averaging between $1.6 trillion and $1.8 trillion per quarter.

The latest release from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in June states that the personal income of Americans is growing at an annual rate of 5.1% nationally, while those living in Florida have had their personal income increase by 7.9% — one of the highest rates of all 50 states.

Florida’s GDP increased over the last and first quarter of 2022-23 by 3.5%, outpacing the national average of 2%, according to BEA statistics.

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