211 Data: Austin-area residents struggling to make ends meet

We believe that every Texas family has the right to live a safe and healthy life. That means stable housing, nutritious food on the table, and access to a good education and training for the jobs of today . . . and tomorrow.
Recent data from the United Way of Greater Austin’s 211 Navigation Center shows that many Texans are struggling to reach these basic needs. According to their report, the UWATX navigation phone calls…

  • regarding access to local food pantries increased 55 percent from 2011 to 2012.
  • In addition, they fielded more than 25,000 calls for help with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps),
  • nearly 14,000 calls for electric bill assistance,
  • nearly 14,000 calls for rent assistance, and
  • more than 7,000 calls for low-income housing.

Our recent Better Texas Family Budgets data demonstrates why families are struggling. In the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metro area, it costs a two-parent, two-child family $50,000 just to cover their basic expenses, and that’s assuming they have employer-sponsored health insurance, no unexpected expenses, and are not saving for their kids college or their own retirement. A one-parent, two-child family would have to make more than $41,000.
When you compare our budgets to census data, you find that 21 percent of two-parent families, and 63 percent of one-parent families, don’t make enough to cover these basic budgets. It’s not too surprising then that we have many families who need a hand up.
Fortunately, this is something we can change if we make the right choices and set priorities to put the financial security of children and families first. We can help families secure a piece of the economic puzzle by protecting them from predatory lending practices when they are at their most economically desperate. We can re-invest in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education to make sure all Texans have the skills and knowledge they need to obtain good paying jobs. We also need to make sure that the jobs we do bring to Texas provide skills training when necessary and benefits so hardworking Texans can support their families. Lastly, we need to shore up the safety net to catch families in times of economic crisis–such as the recession.
If we keep our priorities focused on building pathways to family economic security in our communities and across the state, we can build a better Texas for everyone.

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