This essay discusses recent trends in financial security and wellbeing of Broward County populations. The first section of the essay explores the data from research studies and provides the statistics for Broward County. ALICE Report by United Way is taken as the main research study on financial insecurity of low-income populations. The data by the National Council of La Raza is provided, assessing the wellbeing of the Hispanic minority population of the county. In the second section, the methodologies of organizational studies are outlined. In the third part, the essay discusses the available community resources such as social service programs in the financing, housing, education, health, and business enterprise. The fourth part of the essay discusses the results of the research. The essay’s final section has conclusions; it also lists recommended policies by United Way and Corporation for Enterprise Development and includes additional recommendations.
Reflection and Comparison
This paper reviews the information on the following: income and assets, housing, employment, health, and education in Broward County. The data is taken from several sources: Broward county data, United Ways ALICE Report (Alice Report), Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), and National Council of La Raza (NCLR). The essay includes the sections that describe the findings of the research across these organizations and analysis of the data.
The economic recession affected the quality of life of the populations throughout Florida. As a county with a predominantly urban population and a high percentage of high school graduates (Celebrating diversity in Broward County, n.d.), Broward County could ensure less poverty and more wellbeing of its residents despite the recession. On the other hand, the unemployment rate has increased since the recession (ALICE Report, n.d.). In addition, low-income households experienced even greater difficulties in finances (ALICE Report, n.d.). This means that many residents of the county, who work in businesses or are self-employed, still cannot afford the basics such as health care, housing, and education. As businesses provide low-paying jobs during a receding economy, more people become financially insecure, and they have a poor quality of life.
A large proportion of the population in Broward County is below the ALICE threshold of financial security (ALICE Report, n.d.). The quality of human lives is impacted even while there are many non-profit organizations and governmental agencies that provide assistance and social services. Being unable to secure their income and assets, the affected groups experience a negative impact on their health, education, and housing (ALICE Report, n.d.). The Latino population is particularly affected, as this group has suffered the most from a recession and it is least capable of becoming employed in the county businesses (NCLR Now Hiring 2015). This essay argues that Broward County has many people who live in difficult financial conditions, including the people below the federal poverty line, and that they need social services in addition to the ones provided by community and public organizations. This essay also lists current recommendations for Broward County to provide social services to low-income populations and minority groups.
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Broward County: Key Information
Broward County is located in Southeast Florida near Miami. It belongs to Miami Metropolitan Area and the county regional center in Fort Lauderdale. The county population lives in urban areas in Fort Lauderdale and other cities and towns of the county, including Coral Springs, Davie, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Pompano Beach, Miramar, Southwest Ranches, West Park, and others (Resident Guide to Government, 2016).
According to Broward County data, the majority of the population is white, non-Hispanic constitute 63%, Black, non-Hispanic 27%, and Hispanic or Latino 25%; the foreigners who became naturalized as Americans were at 31% (Celebrating diversity in Broward County, n.d.). The people who speak English are in the majority – 64% (US Census Bureau, 2016). Those who speak Spanish as their first language are 22% of the population (US Census Bureau, 2016). The county population was 1,869,235 in 2014 (US Census Bureau, 2016). It was 100% urban and 0% rural, with many immigrants from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America (US Census Bureau, 2016). The county has several universities and colleges: Broward College, Florida Atlantic University, and Nova Southeastern University (Celebrating diversity in Broward County, n.d.). The population is multi-ethnic and diverse, and Broward County grows as a metropolitan area. It is diverse in the population education and age too since 28% of Broward citizens graduated from high school, 29% took courses at college, and 30% have a college degree (Celebrating diversity in Broward County, n.d.). The picture of the labor force in the county is as follows: in 2015, the employment rate was 5%, the number of employed persons was 942,400, while the number of unemployed persons was 50,000 (National Association of Counties, 2016). Broward County is popular and visited by tourists from abroad. In addition, during high season, there are more residents (National Association of Counties, 2016).
Description of Findings
Financial Assets, Income, Employment, Business Enterprise
According to NCLR, Florida has one of the highest unemployment levels in the USA after the recession 10%; before the recession, it was much lower (2015 Southeast, 2015). Crop production is the top industry where Hispanics are employed (2015 Southeast, 2015).
ALICE report for Florida found the same: there was a high underemployment rate in Florida, and in Broward County, it was 16% (ALICE Broward County, 2016). Even though job outlook has a ratio of 62 out of 100 and it is good (ALICE Broward County, 2016), the population does not have access to available jobs, and many businesses find employees outside the county and the state (2015 Southeast, 2015). The percentage of Broward County residents who live in poverty and fall under the category of a low-income group called ALICE population is 47% (ALICE Broward County, 2016). This is almost half the county population. Moreover, in Florida, there are many asset-poor families – 27%, and they had not enough financial assets to live a quality life and afford basic necessities (ALICE Report, n.d.).
In Broward County, the number of households in poverty is 1,105,162 (ALICE Broward County, 2016). ALICE Report (n.d.) provides an assessment of municipalities in Florida, and the percentage of households in poverty includes the ones that have limited assets and that are financially insecure. This percentage is highest for Washington Park 61% and lowest for Parkland 19% (ALICE Report, n.d.). The number of households above the ALICE poverty threshold is only 53%, relative to a large number of households at the poverty level and that can barely afford the necessities (ALICE Report, n.d.).
As Alice Report states (n.d.), as the result of being in the ALICE category, households receive low wages or no wages at all. Employees work for longer hours and place demands for other family members to enter the workforce. They must leave education opportunities in order to start earning at lower-paying jobs. There are workers who are stressed from working long hours. As a result, the population of the county is less productive and competitive. Moreover, the county needs more money to provide social care for such people (ALICE Report, n.d.).
ALICE Report (n.d.) says that ALICE populations (at the poverty line and assessed as vulnerably by ALICE Report) have minimal financial assets or no savings at all. This places them at the risk of mental stress, leading to crises and risky social behaviors. The populations with no credit or bad credit history must seek different systems of financing that cost them more. They create risks for communities, including homelessness and crime. Because of low financial assets, the county households face many risks when one household member loses their job. During the time of unemployment, people commonly use money from their retirement account, which brings implications for their wealth and wellbeing. Such a practice results in the charges for the early withdrawal of assets, their savings for retirement are reduced, and they are placed in the category of people under financial instability (ALICE Report, n.d.). CFED, an organization that specializes in economic opportunity, says that the number of adults living in poverty is 270,000, and the number of children is 80,000 (CFED Research at CFED, n.d.).
According to US Census Bureau (2016), Broward County statistics on income, business, and assets are as follows: 47% of people receive a private wage and salary, 22% are independent employees and self-employed, including in business enterprise, and there is 4.7% unemployment. In 2010-2014, the average household income was 51,574 USD, and the average per person income was 28,329 USD (US Census Bureau, 2016). In 2013, the number of persons living in poverty per year was 1,822,973; and in 2014, people population living in poverty annually constituted 14.5% (US Census Bureau, 2016).
Housing and Home Ownership
As stated in the research study by NCLR, the US population was affected by the crisis in housing in 2008, following recession (Nclrblog, 2014). This crisis had a major effect on minority low-income groups. Hispanic low-income families lost their homes. Home financing was absent as housing programs remained without funding. Moreover, the stock of available housing for low-income families declined (Nclrblog, 2014). NCLR evaluates the condition of Latino families as vulnerable since they represent 30% of the population below the federal poverty level; and it estimates that 1.3 million persons of Hispanic origin remained without houses during 2009 -2012 (Nclrblog, 2014).
Broward County provides the data on owner-occupied housing units; thus, 64% of the county population lives in the houses of their own (US Census Bureau, 2016). ALICE Report evaluates housing affordability with a ratio of 31 for Broward County (ALICE Broward County, 2016). In addition, ALICE Report makes a claim that 33% of the county households are financially insecure (ALICE Broward County, 2016) and this is why the residents of the county cannot afford proper housing and their own homes.
The county has poor housing affordability, but central and northern counties of Florida have better housing affordability, according to the indicators of housing stock, housing burden, and real estate taxes (ALICE Report, n.d.). The affordability is poor because of the high real estate tax, which is 1,277 USD in Florida (ALICE Report, n.d.). For the people who do not move to the counties with better housing affordability, there are many consequences of the lack of housing. First, they reside in conditions without basic conveniences; second, they suffer many safety and health risks; also, they cannot always repair or maintain their houses (ALICE Report, n.d.). For the people who move to other houses, this often means a longer commute to work, missing work, and other problems related to work (ALICE Report, n.d.).
Homelessness data is also provided in the ALICE Report. In Florida, there were 47,862 homeless persons in 2013, which was less than 57,687 in 2010, but preventing homelessness remained problematic because of the high financial insecurity levels (ALICE Report, n.d.).
NCLR research studies evaluate public health concerns in Broward County. According to this organization data in 2015, there was a problem with food security and with nutrition (2015 Southeast, 2015). CFED studies on Broward County provide the following: 230,000 residents receive federal food assistance (CFED Research at CFED, n.d.). This is not a large group of people relative to the county population. Broward County data on the number of people with no health insurance 21% of the population have not coverage (US Census Bureau, 2016).
ALICE Report (n.d.) states that 33% of households have financial insecurities and thus, have problems with access to basic things such as food and medical care. In practice, having limited assets and incomes means being uninsured or underinsured; the people with limited insurance cannot afford preventive health services and they often pay for health expenses from their pockets. They also miss more days of work, suffer from reduced productivity, and spread disease to others if they come to work when they are ill (ALICE Report, n.d.). When ALICE populations go to emergency services, they end up paying more so their cost of health care increases (ALICE Report, n.d.).
According to ALICE Report (n.d.), the consequences of limited insurance mostly affect the population at the ALICE poverty threshold. Thus, 25% of Florida residents younger than 65 have no health insurance, while 40% of people under poverty threshold are uninsured (ALICE Report, n.d.). The rate of insurance coverage for low-wage employees is less nation-wide as compared to several decades ago, and the lowest income groups suffered as much as a 14 percent drop in health insurance (ALICE Report, n.d.).
NCLR states that the Hispanic population in the county is not prepared for work because they have limited skills and obstacles to learning English (2015 Southeast, 2015). CFED research states that more than 80,000 children live in poverty in the county (CFED Research at CFED, n.d.). According to Broward County information, 88% of high school graduates live in the county (US Census Bureau, 2016).
ALICE Report (n.d.) claims that 33% of households have no stable finances and therefore, lack money to afford education. The report singles out the following outcomes of poverty for the vulnerable populations: the ALICE population receives sub-standard or no education and childcare, their education limits further employment opportunities, and their productivity suffers (ALICE Report, n.d.). If a parent needs to care for a child, they must forgo income and give up on their career. The children who need childcare require social services assistance (ALICE Report, n.d.).
There is an opportunity in the fact that 80% of Florida preschoolers attended voluntary pre-kindergarten educational program (ALICE Report, n.d.). The free programs for preschoolers were first started in this state, but, following economic recession, less children attend this program (ALICE Report, n.d.). ALICE Report (n.d.) attributes this to the fact that unemployed parents prefer to provide home-based care to children. Some 28% of high school pupils failed to graduate from high school in 2010-11, and this was a higher percentage than the national average of 20% (ALICE Report, n.d.).
Methodologies Used by Research Studies
The methodology of the ALICE Report is to evaluate only ALICE indicators. The methodology lies in the name of the report and the description of the ALICE population group. ALICE stands for asset limited, income constrained, and employed (ALICE Report, n.d.). The report focuses on measuring and describing the populations below the threshold of sufficient income from jobs and received social services and assistance (ALICE Report, n.d.). The report methodology helps indicate the scope of need for assistance to the population that cannot afford to live in select states and counties, including Florida and Broward County, because of their limited income, financial assets, and high costs of living.
NCLR methodology in the studies is to compare regional data and analyze local data; for example, its research of Broward County is found in its recent report on Southeast Florida (2015 Southeast, 2015). The organization gathers the data from statistics and interviews. An example interview is detailed in the organizational report on employment and business. It has descriptive and open-ended research questions. Examples of questions are: Describe your job functions; what explains the state’s success in creating jobs? What industries are developing? What businesses result in economic growth? Does the Latino population contribute to the growth in industries? Does the Latino population benefit from growth and how much? (NCLR Now hiring, 2015).
The data for Broward County comes from the US Census Bureau. The Census statistics describe but do not evaluate the poverty of populations. The CESUS research methodology is based on the same definitions for many years. For example, the definition for poverty is poverty universe and its measures do not include people who are in institutions such as dormitories and military housing, and children below 15 years old are not counted (St. Louis Fed, 2016)
SFED has a methodology of gathering facts and opinions. According to SFED, the organization conducts applied research (CFED Research at CFED, n.d.). This means gathering the data that can be used for assistance programs to vulnerable populations and collaboration projects with public officials. This data has a purpose of the evidence base in support for actionable strategies for the households in need of assistance (CFED Research at CFED, n.d.).
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Services and Community Resources
The county’s total social assistance receipts were 12,193,730 USD in 2012 (US Census Bureau, 2016). Social services and community assistance in Broward County come from a variety of public and non-profit organizations. United Way, a non-profit organization that has authored Alice Report, organization provides the services of childcare support, financial stability, and health, including in Broward County (ALICE Broward County, 2016). Community educational services include providing support to thousands of children so that they could attend childcare centers as well as access to basic literacy tutoring for pre-kindergarten and first-grade pupils (ALICE Broward County, 2016). In addition, after-school tutoring and support to children with special needs are provided (ALICE Broward County, 2016). As for financial services, United Way Center for Working Families helps households to accumulate wealth and start earning, to maintain family income and finances; the program called Ways to Work gives small loans to the families who have no credit history (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
Because of these programs, individuals and families can work on improving their incomes, education, and credit history. This results in a better quality of life. Broward families also access free tax program and emergency food supplies (ALICE Broward County, 2016). As for health services, United Way helps to promote good health behaviors, especially to prevent obesity and HIV/AIDS; for example, communities are given access to healthcare if they do not have insurance, so they can prevent health issues and benefit from public health system (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
CFED has a number of assistance programs that benefit the county economically disadvantaged communities. These programs focus on building financial stability and improving education and health (CFED resource directory, n.d.). In addition, it operates the assets and opportunity network in Florida, called Southeast Affiliate Network, and the community organizations in this network enhance financial assets and wealth of Florida residents (CFED resource directory, 2016).
NCLR focuses its assistance on Broward county minorities, mainly the Hispanic population that is almost 30% of the population (2015 Southeast, 2015). In addition, this minority grows at fast rates as compared to other groups in the county (2015 Southeast, 2015), and new residents need assistance. The work of NCLR is to provide a safety net against emergencies, food security, and ensure that people basic needs are met (2015 Southeast, 2015).
NCLR also runs citizenships classes for newly naturalized residents of South Florida in the locations of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, and their programs reach more than 1,500 community members annually (Castillo, 2015). For example, the organization assists with the enrollment in health plans. It utilizes governmental tools for help, such as the Affordable Care Act, to provide employment and health services (Castillo, 2015). NCLR plans to give health insurance to more Florida residents and close the gap in Medicaid (Castillo, 2015).
Broward County Human Services Department has four divisions and three offices, assisting the populations in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Coral Springs, Hollywood, and Davie (Resident Guide to Government, 2016). The programs provide the services and assistance with health issues and other needs, through family centers. In addition, Human Services operates together with community organizations with experience in assisting with employment, violence, housing, developing vocational skills, and literacy, among others (Resident Guide to Government, 2016).
Additional housing services and food stamps assistance is available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides grants for public housing and vouchers for assistance with renting housing in the private market (Broward County Housing Authority, n.d.). These services can be accessed through Broward County and Ford Lauderdale Housing Authority, and community organizations assist with making applications for housing vouchers (Broward County Housing Authority, n.d.). The housing voucher program has reached 6,000 families in the county with housing assistance in chosen neighborhoods (Broward County Housing Authority, n.d.).
Results and Analysis
ALICE Report (n.d.) offers the most comprehensive picture of Broward County’s low-income people. It has a different definition of financial insecurity and poverty from other organizations studies. ALICE Report (n.d.) concludes that one in every three households in Florida above the federal poverty level is unable to access housing, health services, proper food and nutrition, among other necessities. In Broward County, ALICE’s population is 47%. While there is a small percentage of people under the federal poverty line, almost half of the county population experience financial difficulties. The financial stress results in reducing the quality of life and limiting people’s access to housing, education, and health care. This occurs even though these people are employed. In addition, 47% is an average for the county, and it is 61% in Washington Park. The number of households that do not have enough financial assets is the largest for the Hispanic population. Most Latinos of Broward county work in agriculture where wages are low. Therefore, this group is a big part of the ALICE population with limited assets or no savings.
The data by the US Census Bureau (2016) indicates that almost half of the county population has a private wage. In addition, 22% are self-employed entrepreneurs. This active population should be receiving high wages and securing finances for house purchases and necessities. However, per person annual income was not reported as high. This leads to a conclusion that many people, half of the population of Broward County, are underemployed and financially insecure.
Housing is available, including vouchers to finance private housing. Still, many low-income people, in particular of Hispanic origin, are prone to losing houses and they cannot afford their own houses. The 33% of households that are financially insecure do not buy homes, they cannot afford mortgage payments, and they do not do repairs.
Health care access is limited for the population without health insurance or 21%. This means worsening nutrition and forgoing preventive treatment, leading to obesity and disease. The lowest income group that includes Latinos has experienced a drop in insurance for health.
Education has a good outlook in Broward County because there are many high school graduates (88%) and many preschoolers whose parents choose to send them to pre-school programs (80%). Yet, as ALICE Report (n.d.) claims, many children still receive sub-standard education and limited pre-school preparation.
Various governmental agencies and non-profits provide social services in Broward County. Still, many people fail to improve their assets. For example, Ways to Work program is a community resource for the people who earn low wages and take loans to start own business. It allows people to start earning better wages and improve their household income. Nevertheless, research studies claim that self-employed people are also financially insecure.
Hispanic population is assisted by NCLR organization that helps with the access to services such as the Affordable Care Act. Broward County Human Services Department is active in providing services to all vulnerable populations. Community resources are available. ALICE Report (n.d.) concludes that there is a need for better coordination between organizations and businesses.
Conclusions and Recommendations
When Broward County was affected by economic recession and lower wages, the number of people under financial strain increased. Since the 2007 recession and the 2008 housing crisis, the population under economic strain has increased. Close to half of the residents of Broward County are vulnerable to financial stress and unable to afford necessities such as health care, education, and housing.
Decreasing financial security means that people make difficult choices to forgo or leave their own house, limit education and childcare, and choose not to have health insurance. Their difficulties are addressed by governmental and non-profit programs in Broward County. Nevertheless, Broward County residents still need to improve their financial security.
Education, health care, and housing are the largest expenses, and families with limited income, including many Hispanic families, cannot afford them in the long term. They need assistance and motivation to increase financial assets and improve their income. Therefore, improving the services for economically disadvantaged populations requires taking social policy measures. Social services are particularly needed for the county cities with the largest percentage of financially insecure populations, which is more than 50%.
Summary of ALICE Report recommendations (ALICE Broward County, 2016):
In education: provide more funding for the pre-kindergarten program and school readiness training. Prepare children for success at school with literacy programs and increase the transparency of public funds for education (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
In health care: utilize Federal Medicaid to provide more health coverage to the county residents who are not insured yet. Reduce eligibility requirements for KidCare program for immigrant children. Increase funding for care for seniors, and implement health prevention and treatment programs for populations of all age groups (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
In housing: implement funding for housing programs by municipalities. Provide vouchers and waivers and reduce real estate taxes for low-income populations. Test launch a community trust for homeownership (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
Financial stability (income, employment, business enterprise): provide tax preparation assistance and administer financial education projects. Promote incentives for savings, and allow access to credit and low-interest loans (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
Other United Way recommendations: improve coordination between policymakers, scholars, businesses, and social service agencies to implement long-term and system-wide change. Economic structural changes will also enhance opportunities for financially insecure populations (ALICE Broward County, 2016).
Summary of recommendations by CFED (CFED Programs, 2016):
In housing: provide affordable financing for housing. Encourage homeownership for more families, for example by manufactured housing. Allow for building of partnerships and advocacy for access to sage and quality housing (CFED Programs, 2016).
Financial capability: improve families building of assets. Implement training of workforce, enterprise training, and provide services that lead to improved financial empowerment (CFED Programs, 2016).
Business and enterprise: reduce financial vulnerability of entrepreneurs by providing training on micro-enterprises. Encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and provide jobs for themselves and others (CFED Programs, 2016).
Recommendations by NCLR, Relief for Latino Families (2015) and NCLR Now hiring? (2015):
Assets and income: improve employment opportunities for Hispanic population. Implement training and language learning courses in all municipalities. Diversify the prospects for working outside the crop production industry, in particular in tourism and hospitality. Additionally, provide business and enterprise training to improve the financial capacity of low-income groups.
Reduce poverty of low-income groups. Provide low-interest loans and training on how to improve credit history. Encourage long-term savings that lead to better quality of life and retirement. Improve employment so that low-income families could afford necessities (NCLR Now Hiring, 2015).
Health care: Provide health insurance to low-income groups and resident Latino immigrants. Close the gap with Medicaid in the number of insured residents. Provide health and nutrition training and reduce the lack of proper nutrition associated with food insecurity. Encourage health awareness and preventive treatment programs for children and adults, especially in the municipalities with the lowest financial security and access to insurance (Nclrblog, 2014).