Cost of necessities has Florida's poor living on a razor's edge – Tampabay.com (blog)
Michelle Wyant did some quick math in her head and realized she could exhale, even if only until the next bill comes due.
The $245 paycheck she picked up Thursday from her main cleaning job wasn’t going to be enough to cover a $262 Amscot loan with interest due that night. Having taken some unpaid sick days because of her fibromyalgia, Wyant, 39, said the loan was her last resort to cover groceries, gas and an overdue water bill last month.
She picked up a few hours of side work that morning with another cleaning company, but that paycheck wouldn’t hit her bank account for two weeks.
But then, in what she called a “gift from God,” that day’s cleaning client tipped her $20 cash, getting her enough to pay back Amscot with $3 to spare.
“That leaves me enough for a Dollar Tree box of six oatmeals,” Wyant said. “That’s my life.”
While unemployment and poverty rates have declined over the last five years, 3.1 million Floridians remain trapped in poverty with few ways to get ahead. The poor spend a disproportionate amount of their income on rent, child care, food and other necessities and are more at risk of debt, late fees and predatory loans than higher income people, according to a recent study anchored by the Coalition on Human Needs.
In Florida, two-thirds of households earning less than $20,000 annually spend more than half of their incomes on rent alone, according to census data. Families living at or below the poverty line — $24,257 for a family of four — are also especially prone to evictions and inability to pay a security deposit along with first and last month’s rent up-front.
Wyant had a career as a certified nursing assistant