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Report: More Families In Broward County Are Struggling To Afford Basic Needs

united way of Broward county
Caitie Switalski
United Way of Broward County Senior Director of Financial Stability and Community Partnerships, Danielle Doss, uses data from the annual ALICE Report to determine where funding should be directed.

Half of all households in Broward County can't afford basic necessities, like housing, transportation, healthcare and childcare, according to a new report. 

These ALICE families — which stands for Asset Limited - Income Constrained and Employed — are either living in poverty, or close to it, and don't have savings. 

A United Way of Broward County report shows the number of ALICE families in Broward rose by six percent from 2015 t0 2016, the most recent year for which federal and local data is available. 

WLRN spoke with The United Way of Broward County's Senior Director for Financial Stability and Community Partnerships, Danielle Doss, about why more families are struggling to make ends meet.

WLRN: What does it mean to be in an ALICE household versus a household in poverty? What's the difference?

Doss: These are really the working families that are working rarely hard, right, but they're falling short every day because they don't make enough wages.

They're considered above the poverty level, but just not able to meet those basic household expenses, such as housing and transportation ... [they are] falling short because an emergency comes up, or there's inflation, or there's a rise in the cost of living.

ALICE households exist across all living arrangements. It could be the single adult who's earning less than $15 to $20 an hour. It could be the elderly adult who is not able to live on their own, so now they have roommates, or they're living with their children.

Why are more people having trouble making ends meet while employed?

The cost of living for families in the state of Florida has increased by 15 percent statewide between 2010 and 2016. We are outpacing the country. So the cost of living is outpacing the rate of inflation. But the challenge in the state of Florida, I would say, [is that] two thirds of the families earn under $20 an hour, and three fourths of them actually earn less than $15 an hour.

So many of these families are not positioned to be financially stable. In Broward County alone, a family of four would need to earn $35 an hour just to be able to be financially stable and save just a little bit for emergencies.

How much of an impact does housing have on ALICE households?

It has a huge impact. When we look at the ALICE report it states that the basic household survival budget in the category of housing - for a single adult - [would be] $764 per month. However you're really hard pressed to find housing in that cost range. On average when you're looking at a single adult who is in need of housing, you would be looking for a unit ... that would cost between $1,100 to $1,200 a month.

A large percentage of families, especially ALICE families who earn less than that $20 an hour or $15 an hour, are spending more than 30 percent of their income to support their housing needs.

Read More: As Broward Population Ages, County Has Major Housing And Transportation Shortages

In Miami Dade County there's an even higher percentage of households that fall into the ALICE category: 59 percent. What factors are unique to Broward County? What factors are rising across all of South Florida?

What's unique to Broward County is that the percentage of households in Broward County actually increased. The unemployment rate in Broward County has decreased; it is actually lower than the state, and lower than the national average.

However we've seen an increase in the number of ALICE families by six percent in Broward County. So what that tells us is that families are working, but again, the wages are stagnant or they're behind.

Everyone can be ALICE - no one's exempt. It's really being in a position of not having enough finances to meet your basic needs.

You can read the full 2018 ALICE report, below:

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, currently leads the WLRN Newsroom as Interim Managing Editor. Prior to transitioning to leadership from production, Caitie reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.