43% of households in the Suncoast Region Struggle Financially

United Way report reveals 2 out of 5 working households cannot cover basic needs

Of Florida’s 7.8 million households (21.2 million people), 13% earn below the Federal Poverty Level. While those families certainly struggle, they are not the only ones who do. There is another group of people who are technically above the Federal Poverty Level but by no means have the funds to get by in our community. Defined as ALICE (an acronym for families who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), these households are working and working hard, but still struggling to make ends meet.

From the most recent ALICE report, 13% earn below the Federal Poverty Level in Florida but an additional 33% are ALICE. In the United Way Suncoast Region (DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties), similar trends are seen with 12% earning below the Federal Poverty Level and another 31% classified as ALICE. This means that 557,372 households in our community are struggling just to get by.

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

Click the image above to download the full report.

Graph 1: Family Households need considerably more than Poverty Level funds to survive.

Table 2: Costs of what it takes to survive based on family type. Note that different households require vastly different budgets to get by.

“The ALICE Reports shows us that people were struggling before this pandemic,” said Jessica Muroff, United Way Suncoast CEO. “When nearly half of households in our community are on the financial edge before COVID, it’s clear that many have fallen off that edge this year. 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 ALICE families are households earning above the poverty line but not enough to cover the most basic of needs like food and housing. Even in our 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.

With drastic impacts from 2020’s pandemic, many ALICE families are struggling to get back. While data about families struggling is not new, the ALICE data shows how vast this struggle is. With over half a million households struggling in our communities, large-scale solutions need to be addressed to help our families be okay.

Why is ALICE struggling?

The cost of basic household needs increased steadily, outpacing the rate of inflation and wage growth.

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

Why is ALICE struggling?

While many families are struggling in our community, some are struggling more than others. We see across the ALICE data that while both families without children and families with children are struggling, single parents with children are the most likely to be ALICE. In addition, Black and Hispanic households are also more likely to be ALICE, following poverty trends.

Graph 3: Single or Cohabitating households are equally at risk of being below ALICE than Families with Children, even though Families with Children are much more likely to be impoverished.

Graph 4: Of families with children, single-headed families (especially single female-headed households) struggle significantly more than married groups.

Graph 5: Hispanic and Black households struggle significantly more than their racial counterparts.

Other findings include:

  • Unemployment was falling before COVID, but low-wage/entry level jobs dominate the employment landscape
  • 67% of all jobs in Florida pay less than $20 an hour
  • Wage gaps are increasing in some areas
  • Some 47% of Floridians don’t have money set aside to cover expenses for three months in case of an emergency

“We started a movement five years ago to raise awareness about these families who work and want to provide for their families,” said former 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