Florida Politics: “Kionne McGhee asks Ron DeSantis to expand Medicaid during coronavirus outbreak”

A top Democrat is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend Medicaid benefits to those who would normally not get it.

The number of positive novel coronavirus cases in Florida rose above 500 Friday to a total of 520, up 88 cases. The death toll also increased to 10. The 520 count includes 46 non-residents tested and isolated in the state.

House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee has sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend coverage cancellations for people currently enrolled in Medicaid by extending eligibility re-determination periods until novel coronavirus pandemic subsides. He also wants DeSantis to temporarily extend coverage to low-income Floridians whose incomes are under 100% of the federal poverty level. He says those people are caught in the “coverage gap” between Florida Medicaid eligibility and getting subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. 

McGhee is also asking the governor to direct the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to authorize Medicaid medical providers to immediately enroll patients into Medicaid while waiting on their full applications to process.

He says this move is necessary because of the number of people losing their jobs. 

“There are people out here who no longer have access to healthcare due to them being laid off because of the coronavirus,” he said.

The Department of Labor has asked Florida and other states to withhold specifics about the number of unemployment claims being filed. Spokeswoman Tiffany Vause says they normally release the information a week later so that it doesn’t affect the financial markets.

DOL data shows for the week that ended on March 7th, Florida was one of the states with one of the largest increases for initial claims filed. For that week, claims rose by 472.  And Vause says they have seen a drastic increase in the number of applications filed, compared with last week. 

DOL says the increase here and in other states is clearly attributed to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“Our call volume Monday – Wednesday was more than 76,000 calls,” she said in an email response. “Last week we had just shy of 28,000 calls for the entire week.”

If the governor were to move to expand Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of Floridians could qualify for coverage. McGhee says it wouldn’t cost the state because it would leverage substantial federal dollars. 

“In fact the state would benefit from having the draw down from the federal government to cover the health expenses that we’re facing as a state,” he said. “If the governor does decide to extend eligibility.”

DeSantis issued an executive order Friday suspending open meeting laws that require a quorum of people to present in person to hold a meeting or requires a local government body to meet at a specific public place. Governmental bodies will be allowed to meet telephonically and through video conferencing.

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Florida Politics: “Kionne McGhee asks Ron DeSantis to ease unemployment restrictions amid coronavirus spread”

House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee has sent a second letter to the Governor asking for unemployment relief for Floridians due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This letter asks Gov. Ron DeSantis to eliminate the delay in getting benefits when filing an unemployment claim and the requirement to prove recipients are searching for work. The letter requests the state develop a process for people to apply over the phone and speed up disbursing funds. McGhee also wants the state to increase the amount of unemployment benefits. His first letter asked the Governor to expand Medicaid and increase the eligibility for the program.

McGhee says in the second letter it currently takes as long as up to a month for people to collect unemployment benefits, which he argues is far too long for families who need help today. He also points out that the state has the fifth lowest maximum for unemployment payments at $275 a week.

“Tens of thousands of hospitality and tourism employees are left without a job and income due to workplace closures,” he said in the letter. “Our residents are trying to deal with both a public health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to ramp up restrictions Friday afternoon in order to stop community spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus.

The Governor issued an Executive Order closing restaurant dining rooms and gyms for the duration of the state’s state of emergency, which expires May 8, but can be extended.

In the order, DeSantis pointed to a need for “social distancing” to try to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus known as COVID-19.

“I am committed to supporting retailers, restaurants and their employees as they pursue creative business practices that safely serve consumers during this temporary period of social distancing and … as Governor, I am responsible for meeting the dangers presented to this state and its people by this emergency,” part of the order said.

The announcement will affect a huge part of Florida’s economy and workforce. It will last as long as Florida is in a state of emergency, which DeSantis declared March 9. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation will have enforcement power.

DeSantis also closed beaches and more in two hard-hit South Florida counties.

The Governor has directed all movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums, fitness studios and beaches to close in Broward County and Palm Beach County. It will remain in effect until the state of emergency ends.

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WSVN: “Farm Share feeds families impacted by COVID-19 pandemic in SW Miami-Dade”

Hundreds of people lined up in their vehicles as a South Florida organization helped feed people who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in Southwest Miami-Dade.

With many store shelves remaining bare, volunteers from Farm Share, a local non-profit, could be seen loading food into the back of vehicles at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Friday.

“When I went in the store the other day, it was empty,” Tracey Lyons said. “The shelves, no toilet paper, no meat, and half of these senior citizens can’t get to the store, so it’s a blessing that Farm Share is out here and Mt. Pleasant allowed us to be out here on their property to do this and to feed all these people, so at least we know that somebody got something to eat.”

Farm Share partners with Miami-Dade County Public Schools during tough times, and local leaders are helping families by distributing food to community members impacted due to the coronavirus crisis.

“You see the community come to the rescue of the community,” State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, said.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak has forced some workers out of a job, the need for food becomes even greater for South Floridians.

“It’s very caring,” Rey Anes said. “I mean, it’s nice that we’re all helping each other at this time, but it’s also sad to see that the shelves are being empty, and they’re taking advantage of not letting people buy what they need at the stores.”

7Skyforce hovered over the long lines resulting from the Friday food drive. Organizers of the event used a drive-thru format to distribute the food.

However, not everyone may get an opportunity to experience Farm Share’s generosity.

“I believe that there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be left without food because the turnout that we have is overwhelming, so obviously, the need is there,” Luis Dickson said.

With ride-share services like Uber and Lyft parked for the foreseeable future, some people are ignoring social distancing to help their fellow neighbors.

“I have transported three people to make sure they come get their stuff, make sure their family is straight, their kids are good, so if you’re out there and you know people are not able to get transportation to get some food, some necessaries for the house, just help them out,” Smiley, a volunteer, said.

In a time where the future is unclear, Farm Share is making sure that the people who roll through both get food and some hope.

View the original article here.