By Brenyale Toomer-Byas
Executive Director of United for Financial Security, Orange County United Way
Many of Orange County’s families, children, and individuals are and have been confronting severe financial insecurity.
In fact, 1 out of every 3 households in Orange County is struggling to get by and meet their basic needs, according to Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2019, United Ways of California’s statewide report on the financial challenges for working families.
Of course, this number has likely grown with the onset and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we are starting to see newly vulnerable households – families that have never had to seek assistance before.
While the pandemic’s impact on our community continues to unravel, the Real Cost Measure report, which looks at the real costs of living in California’s communities, provides a striking breakdown of our community members who are most financially vulnerable. Here are some key findings:
- A staggering 1 in 4 seniors are struggling to meet their basic needs.
- Communities of color are disproportionately struggling to make ends meet. For example, Latino households make up 35% of the population in Orange County but represent 57% of households that are struggling to get by.
- Another group with disproportionately high financial challenges are single mothers with young children, a finding that also illustrates the importance of using family composition in assessing our community’s challenges.
- Basic needs expenses that continue to become crippling for so many households in our community are housing, childcare, and food.
What can we do with this information?
The report findings, along with real-time data from 2-1-1 OC and the new Advance OC initiative, provide tangible tools to help advocate and elevate policy solutions that holistically and sufficiently address the needs of these families.
The report acts as another litmus test and screening tool that can be used as we continue to evaluate how we target our investments, design programs, and scale our efforts. In fact, it is an important reminder of the intentionality and focus we must have to help households who are struggling. As a community, we must consider:
- Not taking a one-size-fits-all approach to each region of the county and areas within cities.
- The populations we must serve and the individual barriers that need to be addressed to increase their financial stability.
- Targeting solutions around affordable housing and childcare, access to income supports, job training that leads to living-wage employment, and financial coaching and education.
We’re on the right path.
With the above, it must be said that the report reaffirms that we at Orange County United Way are on the right path through the work we are doing with our initiatives, United for Financial Security, United for Student Success, and United to End Homelessness, as we fight for equity by removing barriers, closing gaps, and leveling the playing field for everyone who lives here.
Through our strategic initiatives, Orange County United Way is working to further engage various stakeholders, businesses, organizations, and community members to address homelessness, financial security for struggling families, and helping students achieve success.
Orange County is where I grew up and the place that I love to call home. On a personal level and as the Executive Director of United for Financial Security, I want to ensure that all families here have the opportunity to create a strong future.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but our community has proven it can come together to help those who need it most, and I’m excited about helping families go from surviving to thriving.
Want to get involved?
If you would like to get involved, we encourage you to:
- Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on our work.
- Donate to Orange County United Way to support our programs.
- Volunteer to help.
If you would like to re-watch the Real Cost Measure event or share it with your network, check out the recording below!