Even before pandemic fallout, 40 percent of Broward families struggled

Almost 40 percent of families in Broward County were already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new point-in-time data study released by United Way of Broward County. And the full impact of the virus is still to be seen. 

The study focuses on ALICE families [Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed]. These are households that are above the federal poverty level, but earn less than what is considered the basic cost of living in Broward.

“I think that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg as to what the impacts [of coronavirus] are going to look like,” says Heather Davidson, director of public policy and strategic initiatives at the United Way of Broward County. 

Visit unitedwaybroward.org/alice-broward-county to read the study.

The threshold is based on the minimum income necessary for survival, using data from the American Community Survey. 

They have the money to pay their rent and put food on the table, but not enough to put away for savings. When an emergency arises, like a pandemic, they’re struggling.

The federal poverty level is considered at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. 

In 2018, the federal poverty level for annual household costs for a single adult was $12,140 and $25,100 for a family of four. 

In Broward County, the average single adult needs to make at least $28,248 to pay for the basics, while a family of four needs $81,336.

“We see that families that have one unexpected situation come up, like a flat tire, they may have to choose what bill gets paid versus paying to fix that tire or taking a child to get services at a hospital,” Davidson says. “How do you balance that out with the need for putting food on the table?

More than 1.3 million unique unemployment claims have been filed in Florida since March 15 and 48 percent of claimants have been paid, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The unemployment rate in Broward County is 4.2 percent, just below the state percentage of 4.3 percent.

Visit lmsresources.labormarketinfo.com/covid19/index.html to read the report on unemployment claims.

In 2018 [the latest data provided by United Way] municipalities in The New Pelican coverage area had poverty or ALICE households ranging from 35 to 61 percent:

Deerfield Beach: 61

Fort Lauderdale: 48

Hillsboro Beach: 40

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea: 46

Oakland Park: 58

Pompano Beach: 54

Wilton Manors: 43

Lighthouse Point: 35

Even in affluent areas, there are still families who struggle.

“It’s not a surprising statistic due to the high amount of service sector jobs such as housekeepers, lawn maintenance, food service workers, and hotel workers that maintain affluent communities,” Davidson explains. 

“ALICE impacts all communities, and regardless of affluence, individuals need to live in communities where they are working due to lack of reliable transportation and are probably spending higher amounts on housing.”

Davidson believes the number of ALICE households in 2020 will increase, especially because many families were working in the restaurant, retail and tourism sectors. 

In 2018, she says, 14 percent of families were just above the ALICE threshold.

211 Broward said it has received almost 11,000 calls since the end of March from residents asking for food, emergency financial assistance and mental health services. More than half of the calls were directly related to COVID-19.

As a community organization, United Way has been working on “mitigating many of these immediate needs,” Davidson says. This emergency financial assistance can be used for rent, child care, and other needs. The agency has also partnered with food providers and has been able to give tens of thousands of meals.

“It’s a very sad picture of seeing how many people are reaching out for services at this time,” she says.

Originally published in the New Pelican Newspaper.

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