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New report underscores more than a third of Northeast Florida struggled to make ends meet before COVID-19

May 4, 2020

United Way asks for philanthropic investments

in this time of greater need



Before the onset of COVID-19, more than one third of residents in Northeast Florida struggled to make ends meet. In this time of COVID-19 disruption, the data suggests these numbers could now be significantly higher. This is according to the latest “ALICE in Florida: A Financial Hardship Study,” a statewide annual report on Florida’s low-income population released today.

This annual ALICE report, produced by United Way of Florida in partnership with United For ALICE, provides county-by-county data that speaks to the percentage of Florida residents who, despite working hard, struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

These Floridians are known as ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They are our health-care professionals, our child-care providers, our restaurant workers; they are people we count on every day. They live in households earning above the poverty line but not enough to cover the most basic of needs, such as food or utilities.

In Northeast Florida – defined as Duval, Nassau, Clay, Baker and St. Johns counties – approximately 27% of households are considered ALICE with an additional 11% in poverty. This means 221,301 of all 573,171 households in Northeast Florida – more than one in three – struggle to make ends meet.

Statewide, ALICE and poverty populations make up 46% of households.

United Way of Northeast Florida and United Ways across the state work to change these odds for struggling families. United Way believes too many people struggle every day in our community, pandemic or not, and it’s important to provide everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. Now, during COVID-19, when 211 calls have doubled year over year and unemployment is skyrocketing, it’s more important than ever to invest in United Way.

“These financially vulnerable individuals and families are living in crisis every day,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. “Then, COVID-19 became a universal emergency. These struggling families are now potentially facing the greatest health and financial challenges of their lives, as many don’t have health insurance, have experienced wage losses and are unable to afford basic needs. It’s critical those with the means to help consider a gift to United Way.”

Over the last decade, Florida’s low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial security as the high cost of essentials surpassed wages. While wages for low-paying jobs remain largely stagnant, the cost of basic needs nationally grew on average 3.4 percent each year over the past decade.

The ALICE report shows the cost of survival in Florida is $24,600 for a single adult, $27,348 for a senior citizen, and $69,516 for a family of four. Putting this in perspective, the median salary in Florida for the most common occupation, retail sales, is $22,040, which is less than all of these survival budgets.

Thus, two parents working full time in 2018 needed to earn $17.38 an hour in order to afford the “Household Survival Budget” for a family of four. That’s up from a wage of $11.93 an hour in 2007. During the same period, the number of low-wage jobs grew by 69 percent, accounting for the majority of all jobs in Florida.

“No matter how hard these families work, the gap between their wages and the cost of basic needs keeps widening,” said Rosimar Melendez, head of community impact and strategic investments at United Way of Northeast Florida. “These already fragile households are now facing an even deeper financial hole due to COVID-19 disruption.”

Every day, United Way of Northeast Florida is determined to lead and develop solutions to break the cycle of generational poverty. By focusing on basic needs, high-quality education, good health and well-being, and financial security, United Way works all year to connect people, resources and ideas to help ALICE families and those in poverty.

Now, during COVID-19, United Way is mobilizing volunteers, ensuring 211 call center lines remain open, designing relief and recovery solutions, and, in partnership with other community funders, administering Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund. Long-term with community support, United Way will continue its fight to end the cycle of poverty, ensuring initiatives like financial opportunity centers and investing in historically challenged neighborhoods are sustained.

To read the full ALICE report, view county data for Northeast Florida or learn how you can be part of our local solution, visit unitedwaynefl.org/alice. United For ALICE is a grassroots movement of some 650 United Ways in 21 states. United For ALICE research is supported in part by the Aetna Foundation, Allergan, Alliant Energy, AT&T, Atlantic Health System, Atlantic Union Bank, Compare.com, Deloitte, Entergy, Johnson & Johnson, JLL, Key Bank, RWJ Barnabas Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Thrivent Financial Foundation, UPS and U.S. Venture.

“We are hopeful as our state begins to re-open that these struggling families will begin to recover, but we know it will be a long road ahead,” said Braun. “This new ALICE report with the added challenges of COVID-19 underscores the importance of our mission to help create a community of opportunity where everyone can reach their full potential and break the cycle of generational poverty. We hope you will make a gift to join us in this movement to make Northeast Florida a more vibrant community.”

To give a gift to support the ALICE population and families in poverty, visit unitedwaynefl.org/united4jax. For more information on the work of United Way of Northeast Florida and its partners, visit unitedwaynefl.org.