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COVID-19 Hits As Nearly 350,000 Central Florida ALICE Families Are Priced Out of Survival

ALICE® Report: A crisis in the making as Central Florida marks a record number of ALICE households fueled by high-priced basics and stagnant wages


To read a copy of the report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of ALICE as well as the community conditions and costs faced by ALICE households, visit www.UnitedForALICE.org/Florida

 ORLANDO, Fla. (May 5, 2020) — When COVID-19 hit, nearly 350,000 Central Florida households were one emergency away from financial ruin, setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis, according to the state’s latest ALICE Report released today by Heart of Florida United Way and other local United Ways across Florida.

The newly released ALICE – or Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed – report examines data gathered from 2018 and concludes that of Florida’s 7.8 million households, nearly 2.6 million were ALICE – a record number that were unable to afford the basics for survival, despite working. That’s in addition to the one million families that were in poverty, all before the COVID-19 crisis.

The ALICE Report reveals, cumulatively, ALICE households across Central Florida – combined with those in poverty – remained stagnate at 47 percent. However, the region did experience county-by-county fluctuations. Osceola County experienced an increase from 57 percent to now 64 percent ALICE and below. Orange County data remained close to the same at 49 percent and Seminole County improved from 39 percent to 33 percent.

ALICE households grew to account for 33 percent of Florida’s households in 2018. In contrast, poverty levels remained largely flat at about 13 percent. The report shows ALICE households were locked out of the boom economy and unable to establish savings due to meager pay raises and inconsistent job hours, schedules, and benefits.

“Our focus on supporting ALICE families in Central Florida drives every decision we make from programming to fundraising,” said Jeff Hayward, President and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way. “We knew that one unexpected emergency is all it would take to send ALICE families into a financial tailspin. That emergency is here, and it’s COVID-19. This pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of ALICE families and our local economy, and the full scale of its impact remains to be seen.”

The ALICE report shows that the cost of survival ranges annually from $24,600 ($12.30 hourly wage) for a single adult to $69,516 ($17.38 hourly wage each adult) for a family of four with an infant and a preschooler. Putting this in perspective, the median hourly wage in Florida is $22,040 ($11.02 hourly wage), less than all the budgets.

“No matter how hard ALICE families worked, the gap between their wages and the cost of basics just kept widening,” said Hayward. “These already fragile ALICE households are now facing an even deeper financial hole due to the state of emergency created by COVID-19.”

Over the last decade, Florida’s low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the high cost of essentials outpaced wages, driving the number of ALICE households to rise 66 percent over 10 years across the state, the report shows. While wages for ALICE workers remained largely stagnant, the cost of six essentials grew on average 3.4 percent annually over the past decade. That’s in contrast to a rate of inflation of 1.8 percent.

This mismatch between wages and costs is revealed by a new measurement debuting in this report, called the ALICE Essentials Index. This Index chronicles how the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The result is that in 2018 two parents working full time 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 affording that budget 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.

“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that, through no fault of their own, ALICE families have been priced out of economic stability, setting the stage for the scope of this crisis,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Using the Consumer Price Index alone to measure inflation provides an incomplete picture of the cost of living, severely underestimating the mounting financial pressures on ALICE families.”

Hayward said the report’s findings should be put in play immediately to identify state and local supports that address the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on ALICE families as businesses and schools remain closed indefinitely.

The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.

The ALICE Report is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of some 650 United Ways in 21 states, corporations and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit www.UnitedForALICE.org/Florida.

About Heart of Florida United Way

Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) is Central Florida’s most comprehensive health and human services charity and the largest provider of funds to the region’s most critical health and human service programs. In 2018-19, it raised and managed more than $22.4 million in total resources, including $16.6 million raised for the Community Fund that invests in dozens of vitally important programs in the community throughout Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. HFUW fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Central Florida. It operates United Way 2-1-1, Central Florida’s information and assistance, crisis, suicide and referral helpline; Volunteer Resource Center and the Ryan White program, which administers nearly $3.2 million to provide HIV/AIDS services and referrals. HFUW impacts more than 400,000 individuals annually through its direct service and funded programs. United Way partners with local businesses, government, other charities to increase awareness of local health and human service issues and to inspire hope, provide options and create possibilities for people in need. Visit www.HFUW.org for more information, or call (407) 835-0900.

About United For ALICE

United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face and finding collaborative solutions. Through a standardized methodology that assesses the cost of living in every county, this project provides a comprehensive measure of financial hardship across the U.S. Equipped with this data, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and innovate in their local communities to highlight the issues faced by ALICE households and to generate solutions that promote financial stability. The grassroots movement represents United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.

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