by jerry on April 04, 2020
Media is currently filled with information about COVID-19. Tampa Bay Times highlighted some previous decisions by Florida's state government that appear to now come back and haunt it during this pandemic: reducing budget for the public health department. The article recounts how Florida was concerned about outbreaks as far back as 2005 and had increased funding accordingly, but had pulled back in more recent years.
The article helps illustrates why funding for public good can be difficult when the benefits are not immediately tangible. Most of Florida probably indeed wishes they had a better public health department right now, but the decision is not always clear after years of not hearing news about outbreaks. The situation might be compared to buying earthquake insurance in an earthquake-prone area: the decision obviously seems very wise in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, but for someone who has paid for insurance for fifteen years and has never had to use it, the decision is less clear. Similar to insurance, some public health benefits cannot be easily restarted once an adverse outcome occurs (e.g. the current pandemic). Funding across state and local governments for public health will likely increase in the coming years, perhaps only to be reduced in years of quiet as certain politicians and administrators try to be more budget-efficient.