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Marion County households continue to struggle to afford the basics

There are 59,852 Marion County households unable to afford the basics of housing, food, health care, child care and transportation despite working hard, according to the United Way ALICE® Report Update released today by United Way of Florida. In Marion County, more than 38,820 households live above poverty but below the ALICE threshold, or the basic cost of living. Combined, ALICE and poverty households, account for 47 percent of households in Marion County and increase from 44 percent in 2014. 

The ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed; Report, places a spotlight on a large population of residents who are working, earning more than the Federal Poverty Level, but still have difficulty affording the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation. ALICE was originally introduced in 2014 and the update provides a deeper look at how households have struggled over time since before the recession in 2007 through 2015. Using data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Education, the report tells us more about the number of working individuals and families struggling financially in Florida. Two years ago the report stated that 58,390 in Marion County were included in the ALICE population.

“ALICE individuals and families are working jobs that are vital to the success of our communities and yet they continue to struggle with the basics. Locally, we will continue to work to find solutions that will help our hard working friends and neighbors,” said Scot Quintel, United Way of Marion County Chief Executive Officer and President.                                                                                                   The updated report shows that both the median household income and percentage of households living below ALICE threshold has increased in the county compared to the previous report. However, the number of households living below the ALICE threshold still has not fallen to pre-recession levels of 39 percent, Marion County. 

The ALICE Report Update provides county-by-county, city-level data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial stability. It also informs us of how economic conditions have changed for the ALICE families over time, including the job market and the impact of the recession.

The ALICE population is often forced to make choices that compromise health and safety in order to make ends meet, putting both themselves and the wider community at risk of long-term societal and economic repercussions.  Tough choices for ALICE families may be deciding between putting dinner on the table or addressing a much needed car repair.

United Way of Marion County has been using the ALICE Report to shape programs and policies in Marion County, by bringing together business, government, nonprofit and faith-based leaders, including volunteers, many communities have found creative solutions to better support the needs of these hard working families.

“The launch of our Strong Families Initiative in July 2016 is one way we are addressing the financial stability of families in Marion County,” Quintel said.  “Working with families in an intensive and long term approach, and we have seen tremendous success in our Strong Families participants.”

United Way is focused on providing the basic foundation in the areas of education, financial stability and health to help improve the lives of ALICE and those in poverty, for the long-term benefit of the wider community.

The updated ALICE Report recommends both short-term and long-term strategies to help ALICE families and strengthen our communities. United Way of Marion County is working with many community partners to provide support to ALICE families.  United Way invests more than $1.5 million every year to address education, financial stability and health.  Funds are raised and invested locally to help those in crisis and prevent families, seniors, veterans and other important but vulnerable members of the community from falling into poverty. In 2016, IRS-certified volunteers in Marion County, filed 2,316 tax returns that helped ALICE families, the elderly and disabled claimed over $2.8 million in tax refunds including Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). Despite these efforts, each year, 551 households do not have the safe free help to maximize their tax refund and claim more than $982,555 in EITC tax credits.

The methodology for the updated report was improved by using county-level average household sizes for households above and below age 65, instead of statewide averages and incorporating the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time, an online simulator is also available to experience the financial challenges that ALICE households in Florida face at WalkWithALICE.com.

For more information or to find data about the ALICE population in local communities, visit www.uwof/alice

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