News & Features » News

Central Florida’s poverty problem and the bad math of "jobs"

Despite employment gains, nearly half of the region's residents are living poor according to the United Way



Breaking uneven

Amid all of the mixed messages spewing from the cracks in Florida’s poverty problem, a report from the United Way revealed last week that 3.2 million (45 percent) of Floridians are in no position to afford the cost of even living here. Sure, on one hand you have Fort Lauderdale taking Orlando’s lead and passing ordinances against feeding homeless people in public. Let’s arrest a minister! On the other hand, there’s a new collective initiative from the city of Orlando, Orange County and Florida Hospital to tackle the homeless problem philanthropically and holistically by throwing millions at housing and health care. Let’s feel good about ourselves!

But somewhere in the middle of that rhetoric, right there next to the fact that Central Florida is the lowest-paying job market in the country, according to a 2013 Orlando Sentinel report, buzzes the dull hum of those barely getting by. In Orange County alone, 47 percent make less than a “survival budget,” according to the United Way. In Osceola, where the Magic Kingdom thrives, that number rises to 50 percent. While the minimum wage might creep up from $7.93 an hour to $8.05 next year, between 2007 and 2012, living expenses in Florida have increased 13 percent, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

After a campaign season focused on “jobs” and the creation of them – a campaign season that saw so much wool being pulled over so many eyes – the United Way report is a sobering reminder of where leisure economies meet labor exploitation – and what happens when “jobs” are mistaken for sustenance. We could do better.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.