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Report: More than 40 percent of Erie County households struggle to afford basic necessities

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Thu, Nov 17th 2016 04:00 pm

United Way of Buffalo & Erie County releases latest 'Community Report Card' on financial hardship at annual report to community event

Forty-one percent of households in Erie County struggle to afford basic household necessities, including 26 percent who live above the federal poverty line and whose members are working, according to a report released by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. In the City of Buffalo, 60 percent of households are struggling - the highest in the area.

The report was released on Thursday at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County's annual report to the community, held at the Hyatt Regency.

The third in United Way's "Community Report Card" series, "A Profile in Financial Hardship in Erie County" offers a town-by-town assessment of the struggles of many Erie County households to afford basic needs, including housing, transportation, child care and health care. Previous report cards focused on childhood obesity and third-grade proficiency rates.

According the report, households in Buffalo, Lackawanna and Cheektowaga have the most difficulty meeting basic needs, however, even in affluent communities such as Orchard Park and Clarence, 20 percent of households have difficulty in making ends meet each month.

A household survival budget includes five basic necessities: housing, food, transportation, health care and childcare. These households must also consider additional expenses, including phone service, debt payments, unexpected emergencies and other miscellaneous expenses. A single adult in Erie County would have to make at least $9.91 per hour working full time to meet only basic survival expenses. A family of four, with added child care expenses, would need approximately $30.77 per hour, while the current minimum wage in New York state is $9 per hour.

Financial hardship is not limited to those living below the federal poverty line or those who are unemployed. Working families, described as the asset-limited income constrained employed (ALICE), make up more than half (26 percent) of those who are financially struggling. In addition, financial hardship is more common for women, seniors and in underrepresented races and ethnicities, including Asian-American, Hispanic and African-American households.

Factors that impact financial hardship include an economy that is dominated by low-wage jobs, the high cost of child care in Erie County that can rival college costs for many, and an increase in the cost of housing that takes a larger percentage of household income.

The report also outlined strategies to help families achieve financial stability, including supporting workforce development initiatives and additional training for workers; advocating for flexible employee policies, including those that address the need for flexibility for short-term needs and sick leave; support for expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and increased funding for child care subsidies, among others.

Michael Weiner, president and CEO of the United Way, said, "Despite full employment for many, the ability to meet basic needs for their families can be daunting. Many of these households fall in the gray area in that they still have tremendous financial need but, because they are employed, are not eligible for some of the supports in place for those living below the federal poverty line. It is imperative that our community help address the issues that impact families such as high child care costs, access to affordable transportation and housing, and providing opportunities to develop higher-paying skills so that these hard-working residents can achieve financial stability."

Attendees at the report to the community also had a preview of the United Way's "Text to Give" campaign that will be part of the national Giving Tuesday effort to encourage charitable donations on Tuesday, Nov. 29. A total of $2,000 was raised via text donations that will help at least two families experiencing financial hardship avoid homelessness this year.

To access the full report and learn more about community trends in Erie County, including childhood obesity and third-grade profiency rates, go to uwbec.org/reports.

The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County brings people, organizations, and resources together to improve community well-being. Through program funding, community collaborations and strategic initiatives in the areas of education, financial stability and health and wellness, United Way helps children reach their full potential, adults achieve financial stability, and all people achieve and maintain good health and wellness. For more information, visit www.uwbec.org.

Download the report card HERE (PDF)

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