Ron DeSantis said California welfare programs have no work requirements. Is he right?

Ana Goñi-Lessan/USA TODAY NETWORK / Tallahassee Democrat
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kicked at California a couple times during Wednesday’s Republican debate.

When asked about the low numbers of Floridians with health insurance, he said: “This is a field of dreams, you can do well in the state. But we’re not going to be like California and have massive numbers of people on government programs without work requirements.”

In fact, California does have work requirements for receiving welfare benefits.

CalWORKs, funded through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), helps low-income families who do not have enough money for basic living expenses. It could be because a parent is unemployed, disabled or deceased. People can stay on TANF for 48 months during their life.

An individual must perform 30 hours per week of “Welfare-to-Work” activities if they don’t have children under the age of 6. With at least one child under six, the requirement is or 20 hours. Couples must work 35 hours per week combined unless one parent is exempt due to disability, pregnancy or other circumstances. If so, the other parent needs to work 30 hours per week.


Welfare-to-Work activities range from work experience to education and substance abuse treatment, depending on the month.

SNAP and Medicaid

California has a high number of people on welfare programs. According to Wisevoter, the state has the highest number of households that receive SNAP benefits, with more than 1.9 million recipients. The next is Florida, which has over 1.6 million recipients.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, is federal aid for low-income people. To be clear, the number of SNAP households is not the total number of individuals receiving welfare benefits.

However California has the highest population of any state. Florida’s population is about half of California’s.

DeSantis, a Republican, said Florida’s “dynamics” and a growing population added to the low number of Floridians who have health insurance. But Florida is also one of 11 states that declined federal funding this spring to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance for low-income individuals.

Florida has some of the strictest rules in the nation to be eligible for Medicaid. Under new Florida law, hospitals that get Medicaid dollars must ask for a patient’s immigration status.

California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, covered 15.3 million people as of last year. Undocumented immigrants may qualify for Medi-Cal if they under 26 or over 50, a DACA recipient or are currently or recently pregnant.

Florida vs. California

DeSantis’ jabs add to the running tit-for-tat he’s had with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. They are set to debate Nov. 30 on Fox News.

He also boasted about Florida’s unemployment rate and GDP growth. There was truth to those statements.

“Our unemployment rate is the lowest amongst any big state,” he said. “We have the highest GDP growth of any big state. And even CNBC, no fan of mine, ranked Florida, the number one economy in America.”

Florida is tied for 13th among states with the lowest unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. California was 49th.

The unemployment rate in California as of August was 4.6%. It was 2.7% in Florida.

Florida was among one of the top dozen states for GDP growth in the first quarter of this year. And a July CNBC article ranked Florida’s economy in the top spot for navigating financial downturns.

California is the 5th largest economy in the world, far exceeding other states.