ALICE Families in crisis even before COVID-19

To read a copy of the United Way of Collier and the Keys 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

COLLIER COUNTY, FL — When COVID-19 hit, over 42,000 Collier County households were one emergency away from financial ruin, setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis. Florida’s latest ALICE Report, released today by United Way of Florida, in partnership with United For ALICE and the United Way of Collier and the Keys, highlights hardworking yet struggling residents who have little or no savings and are vulnerable to the ramifications of COVID-19. The Florida ALICE Report and the Collier County ALICE breakdown can be viewed here: https://unitedwayofcolliercounty.org/alice/

ALICE workers play essential roles in our local economy, building and repairing our infrastructure and educating and caring for our past, current, and future workforce. Some are in the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients. Yet many ALICE workers do not have basic employee protections — such as annual salary, adequate health care coverage, and access to other benefits — that would help them withstand the COVID-19 crisis. Half of all jobs across the county are paid by the hour, and most ALICE workers don’t get paid if a conference is postponed, a restaurant is closed, or an event is cancelled.

Over the last decade, Collier County’s ALICE families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the high cost of essentials outpaced wages, driving the number of ALICE households to rise to 39% percent from 36% by 2018, the report shows. That 3% is roughly 4,300 households, and thousands more individual residents.

The Household Survival Budget, which drills down into detailed local-level estimates on costs such as food and transportation, where only state or national data were previously available. The latest findings also factor in geographic differences in the cost of living and include a broader range of expenses — including housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care and other basic necessities. It does not include savings for emergencies or future goals like college or retirement.

In 2018, the Federal Poverty Level was $12,140 for a single adult and $25,100 for a family of four. To put that into perspective, the Florida Household Survival Budget for a single adult is currently $26,496 and $75,204 for a family of four.

Families with children have been hit the hardest, whose Household Survival Budget was already astronomically high in 2016 at $58,272. Even after adjusting for higher state and city minimum wages, there is nowhere in Collier County where a minimum-wage worker — even a single adult without children — earns enough to meet the requirements of their local household budget.

While wages for ALICE workers have remained largely stagnant, the cost of six essentials grew on average 3.4 percent annually over the past decade. That contrasts with a rate of inflation of 1.8 percent. As a result, ALICE households grew to account for 39 percent of Colliers’s households in 2018, while 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.

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

With the county reopening in stages, ALICE workers may feel pressured to go to work even if sick, which could contribute to the spread of COVID-19. 

“We’ve known that our economy was increasingly reliant on these families we call ALICE, who are financially vulnerable to one emergency,” said Sanderson. “COVID-19 became that one universal emergency. ALICE families are facing the greatest health and financial risks today, as they are the workers who don’t have health insurance, have no paid sick days, and whose children receive daily meals at school.”

United Way of Collier and the Keys established a Community Coronavirus Fund to support those ALICE families who have been impacted by the pandemic, and they recently announced their partnership with the Collier County Community and Human Services Division to provide more than $1.4 million for rent and mortgage assistance to qualifying households impacted by COVID-19. The Remote Crisis Case Management system (RCCM) will continue to be supported by the Community Coronavirus Fund, which is accepting donations at https://unitedwayofcolliercounty.org/community-coronavirus-fund/.

About United Way of Collier and the Keys

The United Way of Collier and the Keys (“UWCK”) is committed to investing in and working to create a community where all individuals and families in Collier and Monroe Counties have an opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential. We will accomplish this through improving education, economic stability and health, as well as providing access to food and safety net services. United Way plays a unique role in convening businesses, nonprofits and government to work together to address community needs. Give. Advocate. Volunteer. LIVE UNITED.

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