TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A new report released by United Way Suncoast and its research partner United For ALICE shows that more families in the Tampa Bay area are living paycheck to paycheck.

United Way said the number of Florida households unable to afford the basics grew by more than 227,000 during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a total of 3,866,606 households or 45% struggling to afford the basics by 2021.

The United Way Suncoast said 615,627 people in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties are unable to afford the basics.

Florida has one of the highest percentages of households struggling to make ends meet, falling to 44th of the 50 states for financial security, United Way said.

“It could have been so much worse for these families, whose struggle to feed their families, afford health care and access quality education was often hidden in plain sight until the pandemic,” said United Way Suncoast CEO, Jessica Muroff. “Equipped with the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) name and data, we can do even better to develop effective policies and track our progress toward reducing financial hardship in Florida. We have an opportunity to build on what was learned during the pandemic as ALICE families continue to face economic uncertainty.” 

To live in the Tampa Bay area, a family of four with an infant and a preschooler will need to make at least $88,080 a year, the report said.

“Even with the variety of temporary pandemic supports available, in 2021, a family of four with two children in childcare and two-full time workers earning salaries as a retail salesperson and a cashier – two of the most common occupations in Florida – fell short of fulfilling the annual family budget by $9,000,” the report said.

The report said the loss of pandemic relief programs may create even more issues for families living paycheck to paycheck.

“A positive change during the pandemic was that tax credits, stimulus payments and rental assistance were available for ALICE households and provided strong relief,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., United For ALICE National Director. “However, as some of these supports come to an end, growing food insufficiency and other indicators reveal continued stress. Ignoring these warning signs places ALICE, our economy and the well-being of our communities at great risk.” 

To read the full report, click here.