Florida has more than 3 million people living in poverty, or 14.8 percent. 870,505 of that total, or 21.3 percent, are under the age of 18. This is compared to the national overall poverty rate of 11.85 percent and 16.27 percent for national under-18. The sheer number of Floridians living in poverty in our state impacts not only individual families, but also businesses, Florida’s economy, and our state’s global competitiveness.
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Did You Know?
• Florida’s poverty rate for those under age 18 is 21.3 percent – that’s 870,505 children in Florida living in poverty. In Polk County, the rate is 26 percent. The Greater Lakeland area has 2 zip codes at or above the 50 percent poverty rate for those under the age of 18 (see the graphic below).
• More than 3 million Floridians are on food stamps and more than 63 percent of Florida’s students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
• More than 75,000 homeless students are enrolled in Florida public school.
• In Florida, 3,480,886 households — 46 percent — could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology in 2016.
• In Florida, the total number of households increased by 8 percent between 2010 and 2016. But the number of ALICE (the population in our communities that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and poverty-level households saw a 10 percent increase.
Building pathways to prosperity isn’t made of one-size-fits-all solutions but instead, is made up of understanding the 10 Root Causes and how they all interlock:
• Child and Family Care
• Agency-Community Voice
The goal of these programs should be to get Americans who have fallen on hard times back on their feet – a lifeline, but not a lifestyle. While necessary, entitlement programs can have the unintended consequence of creating dependency, exacerbating the underlying issues and enabling a system that keeps those within it captive, unable to climb out. In order to create and sustain places for people to live, work, raise a family, learn, play and grow a business we must work to put an end to the cycle of generational poverty.
In many ways, Florida is moving in the right direction. If Florida was an independent country, Florida would have the 17th largest economy in the world. Over the past few years, Florida has been creating one of out 11 jobs in the United States. Florida is the third-most populous state in the nation and welcomes 900 net new residents each day. For many, this is the Florida they live in- one that is prosperous, creates jobs, and propels economic opportunity. Yet, many Floridians live in a very different reality. Florida has led the way in economic growth and opportunity. We can and must do more to break the cycle of generational poverty by focusing on creating opportunities for all Floridians, especially those born into poverty. Businesses can, and are, leading the way in addressing this crisis and they are doing it through our Florida Prosperity Initiative.
We hope you will join us as we work with our partners at the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce to create partnerships and taskforces to directly address the 10 root causes of poverty, one zip code at a time. Contact Chamber President & CEO Cory Skeates at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to get involved in one of the 10 Root Causes Taskforces.