43% on Central West Coast of Florida Struggle Financially

43% on Central West Coast of Florida Struggle Financially

New United Way report reveals 43% of working households cannot cover basic needs

CENTRAL WEST COAST, FLORIDA – The United Ways of Florida’s central west coast (Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties) today announced 43% of household in the region struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology.

Statewide 46% of households face the same financial challenges. On Florida’s Central West Coast, the number of households struggling to cover essentials grew by nearly 8% between 2010 and 2016.

To read the report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of ALICE, visit www.UnitedWayALICE.org/Florida.

Table 1: Data in green indicates positive movement. Data in red indicates negative movement.

“The ALICE Reports shows us that, although economic recovery is happening in our community, it’s not happening equally for everyone,” said Suzanne McCormick, CEO United Way Suncoast. “When nearly half of households in our community are on the financial edge, it’s clear we have to work together to address these big issues around housing, transportation and skilled employment opportunities for stronger families and a stronger economic region long term.”

These struggling Floridians are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed or ALICE. They are households earning above the poverty line but not enough to cover the most basic of needs like food and housing. Even Florida’s central west coasts most affordable communities, across the board increases in everything from child care to health care continue to plague a family’s ability to save or prepare for unexpected financial setbacks, even when working a 40-hour-a-week job.

“Referring to ‘ALICE’ has become a part of our community’s culture since its initial 2014 release,” said Angie Bonfardino-Walasek, Executive Director and CEO United Way of Hernando County. “ALICE allows our residents, community leaders and businesses to truly understand the hardships of our very own neighbors or employees and gives us a shared platform for community conversations and problem solving.”

We saw how quickly ALICE was impacted by circumstances last year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. After the storms passed, many businesses remained closed for extended periods, leaving families without paychecks. Couple that income interruption with unanticipated evacuation/preparedness expenses and we saw a huge increase in people reaching out for help when meager savings was depleted.

Why is ALICE struggling?
The cost of basic household needs increased steadily, outpacing the rate of inflation and wage growth.

Table 2: Most Current Year Data by County

The cost of household basics in Florida increased 12 percent for a single adult and 20 percent for a family of four from 2010 to 2016. At the same time earnings increased only 13 percent in Florida but the national inflation rate was just 9 percent.

“In Polk County, our largest service area, 49% of households are living below the ALICE threshold, said Penny Borgia, Chief Impact Officer for United Way of Central Florida. “Our approach to helping combat this is to fund a network of holistic services that measurably improve both short and long-term solutions in the areas of education, financial stability and health.”

Chuck Anderson, President and CEO of United Way of Pasco County added, “the new reports shows an increase in ALICE households in Pasco County. We will continue to strengthen our collaboration with agencies, government and the private sector to help ALICE bridge the gap, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, childcare and salaries.”

Other findings include:

  • Unemployment is falling, but low-wage/entry level jobs dominate the employment landscape
  • 67 percent of all jobs in Florida pay less than $20 an hour
  • Florida is seeing an increase in contract and “gig” jobs (gig economy) contributing to less financial stability for residents
  • Wage gaps are increasing in some areas
  • Some 47 percent of Floridians don’t have money set aside to cover expenses for 3 months in case of an emergency
  • An aging workforce is having an impact
    -Increased caregiving
    -Multigenerational households – most residents under 25 are unable to afford to live on their own
    -Health costs continue to rise

“We started a movement five years ago to raise awareness about these families who work and want to provide for their families,” said United Way of Florida President Ted Granger. “Through the efforts of our local United Ways and their partners we can develop simple, fiscally conservative solutions that would have an immediate, positive impact on families.”

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/Florida.

Sign up to receive news and updates from United Way Suncoast