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State Sen. Nan Rich on target regarding numbers on waiting lists

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been traveling around the state in recent months, asking voters to give him ideas about what sort of taxes and fees to cut to save $500 million. Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, though, says Florida needs to talk about which services to fund.

"We need to be taking a long hard look at funding the critical needs of the state," she said last month, adding, "We have 75,000 on (a) waiting list for child care and 23,000 on waiting lists for CCE (in-home living assistance for the elderly). These are the middle class people we're talking about."

We decided to fact-check whether her numbers were accurate.

Child care waiting list

On child care, Rich was referring to Florida's School Readiness Program, which provides subsidized day care for low-income parents so they can work. The program is funded with state and federal money, and families must pay a portion based on their income. The programs are administered by early learning coalitions throughout the state. As of July 2013, the program served 222,817 children.

In 2011-12, the statewide waiting list hit a monthly average of 74,691 — just a few spots shy of the number cited by Rich. But it has since declined. In July 2013, there were 60,659 children on the waiting list.

A chart of the waiting list over the past decade showed that it had a massive increase in 2008-09, when the recession hit, reaching about 58,000. That grew to a peak of about 80,000 in 2009-10. Since then, it has been dropping.

Child care officials warned there are several caveats about the waiting list. The list in every community isn't maintained exactly the same way. And the names on the waiting list aren't all eligible.

This year, the budget is $567 million, compared to $626 million a decade ago.

Community Care for the Elderly

Next, we'll look at whether there are 23,000 on the waiting list for the Community Care for the Elderly program.

The state-funded program provides in-home services for frail elders that can include meals, assistance with bathing, light housekeeping and transportation to the doctor. The purpose of the program is to avoid more costly nursing home care.

The state's Department of Elder Affairs sent us a chart showing that Florida's waiting list hit about 23,000 in June 2011. But it has grown since then, and as of August 2013, the waiting list hit 28,604. The program served 13,790 seniors in 2012-13.

Under Scott, funding increased by $1 million in 2012-13 and $3.75 million in 2013-14, said Office of Elder Affairs spokeswoman Ashley Marshall.

Rich directed us to the Florida Council on Aging, which supplied us with data from the state showing that some clients enter the system through Community Care for the Elderly but are later determined to be eligible for Medicaid or other programs. The Community Care for the Elderly program is just one of many for seniors that have waiting lists.

So Rich's numbers on the waiting lists for child care and Community Care for the Elderly were about a year outdated. Her number overstated the child care waiting list by about 14,000 and understated the community care for the elderly waiting list by about 6,000, based on numbers from this summer. Still, her numbers track with recent averages. Both waiting lists require some further explanation: Everyone on the list may not be eligible for that particular program or could be moved into another program.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

This report has been edited for print. See the full fact-check at