Can service workers afford to live on the Suncoast? New report may have the answer

Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 6:54 PM EST
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SARASOTA (WWSB) - A new report by the united way shows nearly half of Florida families struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing and child care. Across the Suncoast, hotel housekeepers, waitresses and others in the service industry are hurting according to United Way Suncoast President Sue Wetzel. She says, “It really puts an enormous strain on families when your economy is primarily based on jobs that pay lower than the cost of living where they are located.”

And Wetzel is basing that off the 2018 report called ALICE. She says in order to pay for basic needs, a family of four would need to have a combined wage of 32-dollars an hour. In Sarasota County, 28-percent of households falls under the limited income designation. Another 9-percent lives below the poverty line. while in Manatee County, it’s 43-percent under limited income and 12-percent below the poverty line.

As the population increases, the number of people needing help increases, so Wetzel points to taking the data and translate it into solutions. She says, “As businesses, non-profit leaders or public officials to try to get more affordable child care in an area where we have been able to identify the data would be most helpful.”

And one of those organizations is the JFCS of the Suncoast. President Heidi Brown helps to increase and improve incomes for families who are struggling and want to take care of their families. overall, she says says it’s a rough reality for families who are struggling. She says, "People who come to JFCS to ask for help is one of the hardest things someone will ever have to do. "

Factors weighing heavily on ALICE families are cost of health care, child care and food, but she says it can be situational factors that can apply extreme pressure. Factors such as red tide. “That is something that we could not plan for or anticipate, but it had a serious negative impact on lots of our service workers and those other industries negatively affected by red tide.”

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