TALLAHASSEE – Despite Florida’s improving economy, 46 percent of households (more than 3.4 million) statewide struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, …
TALLAHASSEE – Despite Florida’s improving economy, 46 percent of households (more than 3.4 million) statewide struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and technology, according to a new report by The United Way of Florida and its 30 local United Way affiliates.
Since the recession ended eight years ago, the number of low-income workers struggling to cover essentials grew by 10 percent between 2010 and 2016.
The term used to describe families who fall in this economic state is Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, or ALICE.
“ALICE families live throughout Florida and they are made up of hardworking individuals who want to work, remain independent and self-sufficient,” said Florida House Rep. Holly Raschein. “Yet many are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are often just one unexpected bill, illness or natural disaster from falling into poverty. In recognizing the financial hardship faced by these families every day, we are better placed to create strategies for positive change.”
ALICE families come from households that earn above the poverty line but not enough to cover the most basic needs, such as food and housing. Even in Florida’s affordable communities, across the board increases in everything from child care to health care plague a family’s ability to save or buy a home despite holding down a 40-hour-a-week job.
“We started a movement five years ago to raise awareness about these families who work and want to provide for their loved ones,” said UWOF Chair Andy Griffiths. “We gather here today with lawmakers and key partners to offer simple, fiscally conservative solutions that would have an immediate, positive impact on families.”
The cost of basic household needs increased steadily, outpacing the rate of inflation and wage growth. The cost for a family of four to meet basic needs rose 20 percent, and 12 percent for a single adult. Florida’s booming economy was a popular talking point during the 2018 midterms, but today 67 percent of residents earn less than $20 an hour. The essentials necessary to survive require upwards of $27 per hour.
“I worked for 32 years for Greyhound and looked forward to a comfortable retirement,” said Victoria Townsend, who like many other ALICE Floridians, went back to work to make ends meet for her family. “But I had to return to work. And I’m grateful for the job, but it’s discouraging to know I may never get ahead as the cost of living seems to always beat my paycheck.”
Other findings include:
• The biggest drivers of cost increases for families since the end of the recession are health care (up 82 percent), taxes (68 percent) and the cost of food (10 percent).
• The most common occupation in Florida – retail sales – pays on average $10.33 an hour, not even half of what one needs to cover the basics ($27 per hour).
• Households headed by adults 45 to 64 years old grew by 4 percent but the increase in living expenses jumped 10 percent, which outpaced their ability to keep up or get ahead.
• 32 Florida counties have more than 50 percent ALICE households.
Florida is one of 18 states that have ALICE reports published. The research is supported in part by the Aetna Foundation, AT&T, Atlantic Health System, Deloitte, Entergy, Johnson & Johnson, KeyBank, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, OneMain Financial, RWJBarnabas Health, Thrivent Financial Foundation, Union Bank &Trust, UPS, and U.S. Venture. For town- and county-level ALICE data or to find county-by-county survival and stability budgets for six family sizes, visit UnitedWayALICE.org.