STILL WORKING HARD AND BARELY MAKING IT:Updated study reveals 41% of households on West Central Coast of Florida continue to struggle to afford the basics.

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More than 635,000 households in the region (Citrus, Desoto, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties) are unable to afford the basics despite working hard, according to the updated United Way ALICE® Report Update released by United Way of Florida.

Across our region, nearly 431,000 households live above poverty but below the ALICE threshold, or the basic cost of living. Combined, ALICE and poverty households, account for 41% percent of households in the region.

The ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – Report, places a spotlight on hardworking, and yet struggling residents who have little or no savings and are one emergency from falling into poverty. ALICE was originally introduced in 2014 and the update provides a deeper look at how households have struggled over time since before the recession in 2007 through 2015. Using data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Education, the report tells us more about the number of working individuals and families struggling financially in Florida.

“Despite improvements in our regional economy, ALICE continues to struggle as increasing costs for housing, transportation and childcare in some cases outpace growth in wages,” said Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast. “The ALICE population is vital to our regional economy. They are the recent college grad, health care professional, underemployed professional, and more. This report gives us insight to the needs of this population and underscores the importance of our mission to break the cycle of generational poverty.”

The ALICE Report update provides county-by-county, city-level data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence. It also informs us of how economic conditions have changed for ALICE families over time, including the job market and the impact of the recession.

While Sarasota County saw a notable decrease in ALICE households from the 2014 report (dropping to 33% from 39%) DeSoto experienced a remarkable increase in ALICE households, jumping to 58% from 53%.

“As we examine the data, what becomes clear is that there is a danger of ALICE dropping back into poverty. As United Ways, we work on strategies that strengthen the financial stability and earning ability of adults, while supporting children to ensure graduation with a path to college or career,” said Alice Delgardo, CEO United Way of Pasco County. “In Pasco, we saw an overall decrease in households below the ALICE threshold, but a slight increase in households falling to the poverty level. It’s critical to understand the drivers of that movement and provide programs that prevent it.”

“The report reaffirms that we have made progress across our region, but we still have a long way to go, said Bronwyn Beightol, Manatee Area President. “We continue to fight for the education, health and financial stability of every person in every community.”

ALICE often is forced to make choices that compromise health and safety in order to make ends meet, putting both ALICE and the wider community at risk of long-term societal and economic repercussions. Tough choices for ALICE families may be deciding between putting dinner on the table or addressing a much needed car repair.  United Way Suncoast created www.WalkWithALICE.com which offers users an interactive simulation of the difficult decisions ALICE makes every day.

“While our communities face similar challenges, it’s interesting to note the differences in the needs in our counties that are outlined in the report,” said Angie Bonfardino, Executive Director, and CEO United Way of Hernando County. “That’s why each United Way invests locally to address needs specific to the individuals and families in its community.”

The United Ways of Florida have been using the ALICE Report to shape programs and policies in our local communities.  By bringing together business, government, nonprofit and faith-based leaders, including volunteers, many communities have found creative solutions to better support the needs of these hard working families.

About ALICE

ALICE, a United Way acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

Through a series of new, standardized measurements, United Way, with its research partner Rutgers University, is quantifying the size of the workforce in each state that is struggling financially, and the reasons why. These measurements provide a broader picture of financial insecurity than traditional federal poverty guidelines.

Why ALICE Matters

ALICE workers are essential to the fabric of our society. ALICE works in jobs that are integral to our communities, from child care educators and home health aides to mechanics – all workers we rely on every day.

The future success of our communities is directly tied to the financial stability of ALICE households. When ALICE suffers and is forced to make difficult choices, we all face serious consequences.

The United Way ALICE Report reveals information such as:

  • The average income needed in order to survive on Florida’s Central West Coast depends on local conditions and ranges from $37,000 (DeSoto) to $54,000 (Pinellas) annually for a family of four, more than double the official U.S. poverty rate.
  • Affordable, quality housing and childcare represent a major financial challenge for ALICE families as the combined expense represents between 47 percent (Hillsborough and Pasco) and 59 percent (DeSoto) of a monthly family survival budget depending on location.
  • ALICE is men and women, young and old, of all races, closely mirroring the state’s basic demographic make-up. 38 percent are within their prime earning years of 45 to 64 years old, leading to increased financial risks as they exit their working years.
  • Florida faces an economy dominated by lower-paying career options. Only 31 percent of jobs in Florida pay more than $20 an hour. Most jobs pay between $10 and $15 per hour, and this economic condition is not projected to change in the foreseeable future.

“The ALICE study provides a new lens through which leaders, governments, employers and non-profit organizations can view our community,” said Philip A. Brown. “As we prioritize, make policy decisions, consider plans for the growth and development of our communities – in both the short- and long-term – the ALICE report allows us to take into account how many of us are ALICE and below, and permits our decisions, policy considerations, and rigorous dialogue and debate to be better informed knowing that ALICE exists and that ALICE is all around us.”

United Way is focused on providing the basic foundation in the areas of education, financial stability and health to help ALICE and those in poverty gain access to opportunities to improve their lives and for the long-term benefit of the wider community.