– Florida House Democrats Express Doubt Over Cost of Planned Website for Pregnancy and Parenting Support

So far, Berny Jacques, a Republican representative from Pinellas, has made progress in promoting a plan for a website aimed at sharing both public and private resources for pregnant individuals and parents. However, Democrats have expressed reservations about the proposed state expenditure of $466,200 for this initiative.

The cost estimate, provided by the Florida Department of Health, was incorporated by Jacques into an amendment to HB 415, which was approved by lawmakers during the Health Care Appropriations subcommittee meeting on Monday. The allocated funds would be drawn from an administrative trust fund, with the requirement for the Legislature’s annual approval for the website’s funding.

Democratic Representative Robin Bartleman of Broward County raised concerns about the project’s cost during the meeting, emphasizing that similar resources are already available, albeit not easily accessible on the Department of Health website. Bartleman questioned the necessity of spending nearly half a million dollars on a website, citing feedback from website design experts regarding the disproportionate cost and the importance of promotional activities for the site.

A breakdown of the proposed budget outlined in a staff analysis of the bill includes:

  • $300 for the domain name
  • $261,900 for web design
  • $194,000 for project management
  • $10,000 for IT support

The development of the website would be outsourced to a third party under contract with the Department of Health. Jacques defended the budget allocation, highlighting the challenges involved in creating a user-friendly platform, especially considering the existing limitations of the Department of Health’s website.

The envisioned resources on the website encompass a wide range of information, such as educational materials on pregnancy and parenting, maternal health services, prenatal and postnatal care, programs for fathers’ education and mentorship, social support services, financial aid, and adoption services. Notably, the bill does not include provisions for abortion services.

Some Democrats suggested expanding the website’s content to address issues like Black maternal mortality or involving a women’s group in advising on the information to be included on the platform.