Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

An Attack on Poverty

Florida’s poverty rate is 13.1%, according to the U.S. Census. In the ZIP codes selected by Florida Blue parent company GuideWell for investments, poverty rates are as high as 32.1%. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida Scorecard reports nearly 800,000 Florida children (18.2%) live in poverty, a figure the chamber wants to see fall below 10% by 2030. The Florida Scorecard cites only 53% of Florida third graders are reading at grade level, leaving nearly 100,000 children struggling. The chamber has set 39 goals to “unite the Florida business community for good” to improve Florida’s talent pipeline and economic climate by fully preparing and engaging more of its citizens. Key goals, by 2030:

  • Cut childhood poverty in half, led by the Florida Prosperity Project
  • 100% of third-graders read at grade level, led by the Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Project
  • Florida businesses employ best practices in the field to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, led by the Florida Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project

Florida Blue’s Growing Resilient Communities

Tampa: 33612 and 33613 (poverty rates as high as 31.9%)

Florida Blue is investing $1.7 million in both ZIP codes of north Tampa, including the University/Uptown area, through the Tampa Innovation Partnership. Data compiled by the partnership shows stark differences between residents there and other residents of Hillsborough County.

Median household income in the project area is less than $30,000 annually, compared with nearly $61,000 in the county. The poverty rate is nearly triple the county rate, and homeownership is just 23%, compared with 61% countywide. Rates of readiness for kindergarten and for third grade are less than half the countywide counterparts, and attainment of college degrees is one-third the county average. Meanwhile 62% of residents are working or looking for work, but 10% of the labor force is out of work, meaning there are more people willing to work than available jobs for which they are suited.

Florida Blue’s investments include $750,000 in the redeveloping Uptown urban district that can provide jobs to residents in the two ZIP codes. Also, the company and its foundation granted $950,000 to service partners such as Feeding Tampa Bay, United Way Suncoast and the University Area Community Development Corp. to assist residents in need.

Orlando: 32805 (27.4% in poverty)

In an historically Black community near downtown Orlando that includes Camping World Stadium, Lift Orlando is leading “purpose-built community” initiatives transforming the long-neglected area by restoring parks where generations of residents have played, building affordable housing and earlylearning centers and constructing the Heart of West Lakes Wellness Center. The center, backed by Florida Blue, Orlando Health and AdventHealth, promotes not only physical health but financial well-being — offering financial coaching, home-buying workshops, student-debt counseling and small-business incubation. Mental well-being is also addressed with green spaces for community get-to-gethers.

Jacksonville: 32206 (32% in poverty)

Florida Blue is investing money and know-how in key partners such as the Historic Eastside Community Development Corp. and Lift Jax, which are tackling symptoms of historic neglect such as poor reading rates, generational housing in disrepair and lack of access to fresh food. The Historic Eastside CDC, Lift Jax and Local Initiatives Support Corp. are working together to restore and repair homes occupied by generations of residents, inviting former residents to return by helping overcome financing obstacles and restoring an historic corner grocery store to bring fresh food into Eastside for the first time in 12 years. Lift Jax also contributes resources for classrooms at the John Love Early Learning Center and to the Jax Melanin Market, periodically bringing together hundreds of minority-owned small businesses from the region. Staff of the Historic Eastside CDC’s Shine Center help residents access benefits and resources, including maternal health services. The CDC also supported renovations of a cultural center housing a recording studio, art studios, exhibit space and rooms for classes and workshops.

Fort Lauderdale: 33311 (27.7% in poverty)

Florida Blue is investing nearly $2 million to develop affordable housing options, offer job training and education opportunities and support upward economic mobility in the disadvantaged communities of Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors. Grants went to the Urban League of Broward County for intergenerational affordable/ workforce housing; the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance for its “Prosperity Partnership” upward-mobility program; Broward College’s BrowardUp, offering job skills and education on-site in the select communities; and Dillard High School for a Florida Blue-sponsored Partnership Education for Business Success (PEBS) program offering high-school internships for business track students.