The Florida Senate is considering allowing local governments more freedom to use tax revenue to combat homelessness.
The legislation is part of a triumvirate of homelessness bills from Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala. It allows local option sales taxes to be used for homelessness prevention efforts, but doesn’t allow local governments to exceed the one percent threshold they’re currently subject to – so if a county has already met its tax cap, there’s no additional funding available to combat homelessness.
Palm Beach County Legislative Affairs Director Todd Bonlarron says he hopes the bill passes because his county needs a stable funding source to address its homelessness problem, but he acknowledges it could be tough to sell to the voters who’d have to approve the increased levy.
“Any time that you look at people who you can go from utilizing government services to ones that are going to be very positive contributors to our community, I think that people understand that and it resonates with people,” he says.
The bill adds homelessness prevention efforts as the ninth class of spending local option taxes can fund. Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment report to Congress show Florida has the third-biggest homeless population of any state. An estimated 8-percent of all Floridians are homeless, more than half of whom live without consistent shelter.