The Florida Senate’s budget bill, so far, maintains a line item that directs more than $2 million to local homeless coalitions in the state. The House recently passed its appropriations bill, which eliminated the funds.

The Senate general appropriations bill sets aside $2,031,354 in “challenge grants,” which go to local coalitions that provide services to Florida’s homeless.

An official at the Florida Department of Children and Families said last week that the elimination of the grants could be a “critical” blow to the organizations. The groups typically rely on that money to help them plan and apply for federal grants.

Florida is currently facing a serious homelessness epidemic. Last month, it was reported that “the number of homeless students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties has ballooned 79 percent since January 2009.”

The state’s homelessness crisis has even earned national attention. Last November, 60 Minutes took a hard look at a county in Florida that reported 1,100 homeless students in its K-12 schools. The program also reported that “of all the families without shelter in America, one third are in Florida.”

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed  $12 million from the state’s general revenue fund last year that was earmarked for the National Veterans’ Homeless Support Group for “homeless housing assistance grants.”

The Senate budget bill also allocates $4,158,550 in federal money for an emergency shelter grant program.

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