The new data also shows deep racial disparities in the rates of financial hardship
According to a new report from United Way of Northeast Florida and its research partner United For ALICE, more than 39% of Northeast Florida households struggle to make ends meet. Pandemic assistance helped lessen the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, but many local residents continue to face financial hardship – especially in communities of color.
Based on 2021 U.S. Census data, these calculations include more than 74,000 Northeast Florida households in poverty as well as more than 176,000 families defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE families earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but less than the basic cost of living for their community. ALICE families are typically those working one or more low-wage jobs with little or no savings and are often overlooked and undercounted by traditional poverty measures.
Additionally, the report reveals deep racial disparities in the rates of financial hardship with 55% of Black households and 46% of Hispanic households in Northeast Florida below the ALICE threshold compared to 34% of white households. Northeast Florida includes the data from Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties.
“The pandemic was a tough time for so many in our community, exacerbating challenges already faced by struggling families as well as people who found themselves struggling for the first time in their lives,” said Melanie Patz, United Way of Northeast Florida president and CEO. “This new data is critical in helping us better understand these challenges, shine a light on those they disproportionately affect and, alongside our partners, develop effective long-term solutions.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic brought employment shifts, health struggles and school/business closures in 2021, it also spurred unprecedented public assistance through pandemic relief measures, such as tax credits, stimulus payments and rental assistance. The ALICE report shows that while job disruptions and inflation delivered significant financial pain, these pandemic supports and rising wages did help to lessen what could have been a deeper financial crisis.
In Northeast Florida, the annual ALICE Household Survival Budget for a family of four was $84,072 in 2021. The Household Survival Budget reflects the minimum cost to live and work in the region and includes housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, a smartphone plan and taxes. It does not include savings for emergencies or future goals like college or retirement.
The Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Credit helped reduce expenses in 2021, bringing the family Survival Budget down to $69,264, but the local cost of living still remained substantially higher than the FPL of $26,500.
“This is not the American Dream,” said Patz. “The good news is, at United Way, we believe – and know – change is possible. With our hardworking staff, robust network of partners and generous supporters, we can build a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can achieve their full potential.”
Earlier this year, United Way announced the formation of its affordable housing taskforce and an initial $1 million investment in home preservation. Work funded by the investment is now underway on homes in North Riverside and soon on the Historic Eastside.
Additionally, last fall, United Way invested $9 million to improve economic mobility across Northeast Florida by supporting programs and initiatives that focus on solutions in the areas of basic needs and financial well-being. United Way is also currently partnering with 904WARD and the University of North Florida on a racial equity community needs assessment, which will be released this summer and inform United Way’s work in racial equity moving forward.
For more information on United Way, to read the full ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Florida report and to access the interactive ALICE data dashboards, visit unitedwaynefl.org/alice. To speak to United Way leadership about the report, contact Sarah Henderson, director of marketing and communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.