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More Floridians are borrowing money to afford basic expenses

Yera Dominguez receives a credit card from a customer for payment at Lorenzo's Italian Market in Miami, Florida.
Yera Dominguez receives a credit card from a customer for payment at Lorenzo's Italian Market in Miami, Florida.

William Kilgore works for Uber Eats in St. Petersburg, delivering meals throughout the city on his bike. He also volunteers with a tenant advocacy organization in town.

When he first opened his credit card a few years ago, he intended to only use it for larger purchases or emergencies.

But these days, he said, his credit card balance is going exclusively toward basic living expenses.

“I’ve never actually relied on credit the way I am now,” he said. “It’s definitely more recent.”

Kilgore is one of about a third of Americans who relied on money outside of their regular income to afford the cost of living in June, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

According to new datareleased Wednesday, Kilgore is also among the four in 10 Floridians who relied on credit cards or loans to cover spending needs in recent weeks. Outside of regular income and use of credit cards, Floridians also commonly pulled from savings, including withdrawals from retirement accounts, or sold personal possessions and borrowed money from family and friends.

As a gig worker, with varying month-to-month income, Kilgore said covering housing expenses stretches his budget the most.

During a slow month, he’s often forced to put most of his earned income toward rent, leaving little left over for necessities, like food.

"With my job, it's very labor intensive. I mean, I'm burning thousands of calories riding, you know, 100 plus miles a week on my bike. So, for me, food is like gasoline… it's fuel...so food, I definitely put that on credit cards."

Kilgore, who has now borrowedseveral thousand dollarsfor basic expenses, argues against the idea that accruing debt reflects poor financial decisions or a lack of financial knowledge.

“That’s bogus,” he said. “Most people know what they can and can’t afford – they’re putting basic expenses on these cards – so that narrative needs to be changed.”

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Gabriella Paul