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United Way Report: Almost Half Of Floridians Struggle Financially

United Way
United Way of the Big Bend

A new report from United Way shows nearly half of Florida’s households are struggling to make ends meet. United Way officials say their measurement tool called the ALICE Threshold gives a clearer image of poverty in the state.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. United Way uses the term to represent a population of people who earn a paycheck but still can’t afford basic necessities. The ALICE Report says a quarter of Florida families fall into this category. They are households that earn less than the cost of living but fall above the federal poverty line.

United Way of the Big Bend President Heather Mitchell says the method gives a better depiction of poverty than outdated government standards, which define poverty at $24,000 per year for a family of four.

“The federal poverty guidelines have not been reassessed since 1974. That’s 40 years ago," Mitchell says. "So that’s not a tool that you can really use any longer in an effective way to gage what your population looks like.”

The average cost of living in Florida is about $47,000 a year. But it varies greatly by county. In Leon 45 percent of the population makes less than the cost of living, including those in poverty, while only 35 percent do in Wakulla.

Mitchell says helping these families means changing how we think of poverty.

“Quick solutions are not going to be what fixes or helps people move forward," Mitchell says. "A purpose of this report is also to change the conversation of issues that are related to poverty and people that are experiencing financial hardships.”

Mitchell says the United Way of Florida aims to create an advocacy group for the ALICE population. The report will also be used to help inform legislators on poverty issues in the upcoming session. United Way of the Big Bend is giving an in-depth presentation on North Florida poverty next week in Tallahassee.