Editorial: Floridians’ unseen struggle

Even in a good economy, nearly half of Florida households scrape just to cover the basics.

Jayci Peters, left, with Feeding Tampa Bay assists a TSA employee with a box of food and personal hygiene products at a food bank set up at Tampa International Airport in January. The United Way says some 47 percent of Floridians don’t have money set aside to cover expenses for three months in case of an emergency, a number that was highlighted during the recent federal government shutdown. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

For millions of Floridians, times are good. The unemployment rate is low and the housing market is strong, two indicators that were headed in the wrong directions just a few years ago. But the state’s economic recovery has not been a boon for everyone, and a new United Way report puts the reality into sobering terms for many Florida families.

The United Way refers to them as ALICE: asset-limited, income-constrained, employed. You might think of them as the working poor. Either way, they comprise nearly half of Florida households. So while prosperity may be spreading, hardship is everywhere — something policy makers and elected leaders from Washington to Tallahassee should not forget.

46 percent

Portion of households in Florida that struggle to cover basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

14 percent

Portion of families living below the federal poverty level, which in 2016 was $22,300 for a family of four.

67 percent

Portion of the state’s jobs that pay less than $20 an hour. A $20 an hour income is equivalent to about $42,000 a year.

$55,164

Minimum annual income needed for a family of four to afford the basics, up 20 percent since 2016.

Source: United Way

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Lee Fry