More people in SWFL struggling with daily bills.

Not everyone lives their best life in Naples or Fort Myers.

Forget the assumption that Collier County residents frequently dine at excellent restaurants and live in gated communities with well kept lawns.

According to a new research from the United Way of Collier and the Keys, 42% of Collier County households are living paycheck to paycheck.

And that’s based on economic data for 2022, before inflation creeps in and further squeezes stretched-thin household budgets, according to a recent article by Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News.

Families in Lee County face a similar situation, with 43% living paycheck to paycheck.

“People are struggling more than they were two years ago,” said Tiffani Mensch, president and CEO of the United Way of Collier and the Keys.

The fight has not let up.
Some low-wage workers in the United States saw their earnings rise, but the number of struggling households in Florida increased by 190,000, according to United Way figures.

According to the most recent data, 4,056,220 households across the state live paycheck to paycheck.

This represents 46% of the state’s 8.8 million homes.

The information comes from the charity United for ALICE, which collects data on major social issues in 31 states and collaborates with United Way agencies to promote change.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and is used as an alternative to the federal poverty rules. It uses established metrics to calculate the cost of a typical household budget, demonstrating how many households struggle to get by.

ALICE workers include those in the service industry, such as restaurant waiters, as well as teachers and some nurses.

What is ALICE?
For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the basic costs of living in Florida, or a household survival budget, were $80,748 in 2021, but increased to $86,316 in 2022.

A “household survival budget” indicates the lowest cost of living and working in the current economy, which includes housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, and taxes. It excludes money for emergencies and long-term goals such as college or retirement.

The latest report’s conclusions, based on data from 2022, are consistent with a decades-long trend: the number of ALICE households has progressively increased.

According to the nonprofit agency, it increased by 27% between 2010 and 2022, with an 8% increase in poverty-level households.

“Current policy has not been enough to break down the barriers that trap ALICE households in financial hardship, from a lack of access to affordable childcare to insufficient community supports such as broadband internet,” Stephanie Hoopes, national director of United for ALICE, said in a statement.

What is the situation in Collier?
According to the report, 70,261 Collier County households are living paycheck-to paycheck. That represents 42% of the county’s 166,206 households.

Collier’s typical household income is $80,815.

According to a breakdown, 53,999 Collier homes are classified as ALICE households, meaning they have incomes that exceed the federal poverty line but are insufficient to subsist in the current economy. Furthermore, Mensch stated that persons in the wage range earn far too much to be eligible for assistance. Another 16,262 Collier households live in poverty.

What is a survival budget necessary to make ends meet? The statewide average for a household of four is $86,316.

According to Collier, it is $82,164 for a family of four, but Mensch admits this figure is too low.

Based on current housing costs, the annual survival budget for a family of four in Collier County is closer to $103,000, she stated.

The ALICE data uses the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “fair market rent” at the 40th percentile, which is $1,273 per month for a household of four, but 60% of rentals are priced higher.

“The reality in our current housing environment is that housing at the 40th percentile is often not available, meaning ALICE households’ real costs are likely much higher than we see in the survival budget,” the researcher added.

How about in Lee County?
According to the report, 107,307 families are classified as ALICE households, with an additional 37,203 homes living in poverty.

According to the report, 43% of households live from paycheck to paycheck. Overall, there are 339,269 households in Lee.

To subsist, a family of four must spend $6,141 per month and earn $73,692 year.

The median salary is $71,072, according to the data.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News.