Florida is home to around 21.78 million people. Many parts of the state have a reputation for being relatively inexpensive places to live and great for retirement. But the cost of living continues to rise and many Florida residents struggle with debt and regular expenses.
According to a recent study, around 13.1% of Florida residents live in poverty. Along with this, the average Floridian owes $55,340 in household debt — about 16,000 below the national average. If you’re seeking economic assistance or debt relief in Florida, here are your options.
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Florida debt statistics
These are the most recent Florida debt statistics to give you an idea of what Floridians are facing:
- Average household debt: $55,340
- Average student loan debt: $38,459
- Average credit score: 706
- Median mortgage payment: $1,466
- Bankruptcies in 2021: 6,519
- Personal income/Annual mean wage: $51,950
- Child poverty: 17.4%
- Unemployment: 2.7%
Debt collection laws in Florida
Like the rest of the United States, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates debt collectors to protect consumers. Among other things, this Act prohibits debt collectors from:
- Using unfair or deceptive debt collection practices
- Harassing or verbally abusing the debtor (person who owes) to try to collect a debt
- Making threats (ex. threats of jail time)
- Claiming they’ll take legal action against the debtor when they don’t intend to
- Contacting the debtor at odd times, at work, or at home (when explicitly told not to)
- Claiming to be someone they’re not, or an official representative when they aren’t
- Trying to collect interest or other fees (unless allowable by the debt contract)
Florida also has its own state laws regarding debt collection — the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act (Chapter 559 Part VI). This act is intended to expand upon the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It also trumps the FDCPA in cases when it provides more protection to the consumer.
Some of the main rules and definitions within Florida’s act include:
- 559.593 — Debt collectors operating within state limits must register first. They must also maintain a valid registration for as long as they engage in debt collection.
- Out-of-state debt collectors cannot legally operate within the state until they register.
- 559.72 — Many debt collection practices are prohibited. This includes suggesting or using force, communicating with the debtor’s employer before receiving a judgment or gaining permission, and using abusive language. Debt collectors also can’t claim a debt is legitimate when it doesn’t exist. Nor can they claim they’re a government or legal official (ex. attorney at law) when they aren’t.
- 559.77 (Civil Remedies) — This section details the ways in which a debtor can take civil action against any debt collector or individual who violates the prohibited practices under Floridian law.
The Office of Attorney General Ashley Moody also indicates the different ways Floridians can protect themselves from debt collectors, as well as how to manage large amounts of debt.
Debt Relief Options for Florida Residents
Many forms of Florida debt relief exist, but the biggest ones are:
- Debt settlement: Debt settlement entails negotiating with your creditors to try to reduce how much you owe on your account. Most people go through a debt settlement agency to do this.
- Debt consolidation loans: Debt consolidation loans can be used to combine multiple high-interest debts into one loan with one monthly payment. This may be a good option if you have great credit and can get a loan with a lower interest rate than the individual debts.
- Debt management plan (DMP): Many nonprofit credit counseling companies offer debt management plans to people dealing with unmanageable amounts of debt. With a DMP, you work with an experienced credit counselor who speaks with your creditors to try to reduce interest rates, lower monthly payments, and even waive late fees. DMPs typically take three to five years and come with an agency fee, but they can help you pay off debt.
- DIY plans: DIY plans, or DIY debt relief or debt settlement, are a way to reduce your debt load and get back on track. With one, you may be able to set up a repayment plan or negotiate for more favorable terms with your creditors.
- Bankruptcy: Although bankruptcy is a last resort, it can help if you need debt relief and nothing else works. Speak with an attorney about whether you should file for bankruptcy and, if so, whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is right for you.
Debt settlement in Florida
Debt settlement could reduce how much you owe on any settled debts by up to 50% (or more). It typically takes three to four years to complete.
The process is typically done through a debt settlement agency. Someone from the agency will negotiate with your creditors to try to reduce how much you owe on any enrolled debts. During this time, you’ll have to stop using any credit cards tied to the process (though you may be able to keep one for emergencies). You’ll also need to make monthly payments to a secure account until you have enough to pay the reduced balance in a lump sum. Oftentimes, you’ll also have to stop making payments on any enrolled accounts, which could hurt your credit score and result in late fees.
Debt settlement isn’t right for everyone. However, if you’re struggling with multiple debts, are constantly behind on bills, or are using expensive forms of credit (ex. credit cards or payday loans) for your daily expenses, a debt settlement plan could help.
A debt settlement plan can help many types of consumer debts, including:
- Personal loans
- Credit cards
- Department store cards
- Student loans in default
- Old judgments
- Other unsecured debts
Florida debt relief companies
For those seeking Florida debt relief, here are some of the top companies that can help:
- Premier Consumer Credit Counseling: 5201 Blue Lagoon Dr., STE 995 Miami, FL 33126; (305) 827-9080 or (800) 296-4950
- One Focus Financial LLC.: 3837 Hollywood Blvd STE A Hollywood, FL 33021; (877) 972-9228 or (888) 737-1845
- Money Management International Inc.: 7200 Corporate Center Dr. STE 200 Miami, FL 33126; (800) 308-2227
- Make a Way Ministries Inc.: 12030 SW 129th Court Suite 104 Miami, FL 33186 or 8761 SW 42nd St Miami, FL 33165-5317; (305) 271-5094
- Golden Financial Services: 2954 Kirk Rd, Lake Worth, FL 33461; (858) 605-6196
- Fast Track Debt Relief: 1901 Cypress Creek Rd. Suite 400 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309; (888) 332-8004
- Greenwise Debt Relief: 1200 N Federal Highway Suite 200 Boca Raton, FL 33432; (800) 674-9498
Debt relief attorneys
Here are some highly-rated Florida debt relief attorneys:
- Ziegler Diamond Law: 2561 Nursery Rd Ste A, Clearwater, FL 33764; (727) 538-4188
- Debt Relief Legal Group: 901 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33603; (813) 231-2088
- Van Horn Law Group, P.A.: 500 NE 4th St #200, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (and other locations); (954) 765-3166
- The Cohen Law Firm, P.A.: Coral Springs Office 1700 University Drive, Suite 210 Coral Springs, FL 33071; (800) 572-6436
- Suncoast Law: 1209 Edgewater Drive Suite 203A Orlando, Florida 32804; (407) 413-8400
- Law Office of Alex McClure: 255 Primera Blvd Suite 160 Lake Mary, FL 32746; (800) 437-2019
Debt resources for Florida residents facing hardship
The state of Florida has many debt relief programs and resources for residents struggling financially. Some resources are federally funded, while others are local or state-only. Depending on what you need, you could find assistance with:
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Utility bills
- Childcare assistance
- Healthcare costs
- Food and nutrition
Currently, nearly half of Americans struggle with food costs. Approximately 2,252,050 Floridians face hunger on a regular basis — over 660,000 of whom are children.
To help combat the food crisis, Florida has a number of food banks and pantries. Here are a few of the biggest ones in the state:
- Feeding Northeast Florida: 1116 Edgewood Ave N, Units D/E Jacksonville, FL 32254; (904) 513-1333
- Feeding Tampa Bay: 4702 Transport Drive, Building 6 Tampa, FL 33605; (813) 254.1190
- Feeding South Florida: 2501 SW 32nd Terrace Pembroke Park, FL 33023; (954) 518-1818
- Second Harvest of the Big Bend: 4446 Entrepot Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32310; (850) 562-3033
- Feeding The Gulf Coast: 5709 Industrial Blvd Milton, FL 32583; (850) 626-1332
Feeding America has a complete list of food banks in Florida and throughout the country.
Income and employment in Florida
The unemployment rate increased significantly in Florida during the pandemic. In May 2020, it was 13.9%. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped to 2.7%. This is lower than the national average of 3.5%.
Florida ranks 2nd in job creation with 469,500 new jobs created in the state. For residents still seeking employment, this is good news.
Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning new employees are not required to join a union or pay union dues. The main downside is that this often means less job security and potentially lower wages.
Florida is also an employment-at-will state. This means an employer can terminate an employee with or without cause (excepting discrimination). In some cases, employment-at-will states also have less job security.
How to apply for unemployment benefits in Florida
You can apply for unemployment benefits in Florida (referred to as Reemployment Assistance Benefits in the state) online. Simply head to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website and review the requirements for applying. There’s also a video that explains the application process.
Some of the documentation you will need includes:
- Full name and contact information (ex. address)
- State ID number or Driver’s License
- Employment information for the past 18 months (the company’s name, address, and telephone number)
- Reason for leaving your previous job
- State and stop date at your previous position(s) and gross earnings
You’ll need to sign in or create an online account on the CONNECT system. Once you’ve done this and filled out the application, you can then register for work at Employ Florida. You can also check what the total of your benefits will be.
To receive benefits, you’ll need to submit a request biweekly on the CONNECT system.
Banking and taxes in Florida
Florida does not have a state income tax. It does have 6% general sales tax, though.
An estimated 4% of Floridians are unbanked, meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account. People who are unbanked often end up using expensive or predatory forms of credit, such as payday loans or credit cards, which could lead to more debt or financial hardship.
Florida housing market
The average home value in Florida is currently around $406,876. This is a 25% increase over the past year. It’s also higher than the typical home value in the country of $357,589. The owner-occupied housing unit rate is approximately 66.2%.
The Florida Homeowners Assistance Fund offers multiple regional and statewide programs to help residents purchase a home. This includes Habit for Humanity’s home construction and assisted financing program.
In Florida, the median mortgage payment is $1,530. The average rent payment, meanwhile, is $799 for 651 square feet in Florida City, FL. Rent prices vary drastically by location, though. For example, the typical rent in Tampa is $1,915.
Retirement in Florida
The average Floridian has $428,997 set aside for retirement. The average Florida resident should have closer to $707,556 to live comfortably in retirement.
Average Florida insurance premiums
On average, Floridians pay about $1,648 a year for a 250,000 dwelling coverage policy. This breaks down to roughly $137 a month.
The average car insurance premium is $2,762 for full coverage, or $230 a month. This is notably higher than the national average of $147 a month.
Payday lending status in Florida: Legal
Payday loans are legal in Florida, but the state still has certain payday lending laws in place:
- Maximum loan amount: $500
- Maximum Interest Rate (APR): 391% on a 14-day loan of $100
- Minimum loan term: 7 days
- Maximum loan term: 31 days
Statute of limitations on debt in Florida
Florida’s statute of limitations on debt ranges from four to five years:
- Medical debt: 5 years
- Credit card: 5 years
- Auto loan debt: 5 years
- State tax debt: 5 years
State hardship programs
If you’re looking for state-specific hardship programs in Florida, here are some of the biggest ones:
- Rental Housing Assistance: This resource offers information for people who need rental assistance. It can connect residents with HUD to find subsidized housing.
- Single Family Housing Repair and Grants Program: The Section 504 Home Repair Program helps very low income homeowners get a loan to repair damages, modernize the home, or remove hazards.
- Florida Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: This federal program can reduce the cost of heating and cooling for low-income households. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website goes into detail about how to apply.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): CHIP, or Florida KidCare, provides low-cost health insurance to children. It includes things like doctor visits and prescriptions. Here’s a list of requirements.
- SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: The SNAP program (found here) helps subsidize the cost of food for eligible families.
- WIC: The Women, Infants, and Children program supports families by helping them gain access to nutrition education and healthy food. It can also help low-income families find affordable health care.
- Organization for Refugees & Immigrants: This resource connects refugees with different associations and partners.
- Family Assistance Programs: Many family-focused programs and resources exist throughout Florida, such as the Temporary Cash Assistance program and the Discount Drug Card.
Help for Veterans
Florida is home to 1,492,000 veterans. The Florida Department of Veteran Affairs has many resources for veterans facing homelessness, unemployment, or other financial hardships.
Facilities in Florida
Here are the main VA facilities in Florida:
- C.W Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center: 10000 Bay Pines Boulevard Bay Pines, FL 33744-8200; (727) 398-6661
- Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center: 201 Northwest 16th Street Miami, FL 33125-1624; (305) 575-7000
- West Palm Beach VA Medical Center: 7305 North Military Trail West Palm Beach, FL 33410-6400; (561) 422-8262
- Lake City VA Medical Center: 619 South Marion Avenue Lake City, FL 32025-5808; (386) 755-3016
- Orlando VA Medical Center: 13800 Veterans Way Orlando, FL 32827-5812; (407) 631-1000
- St. Petersburg Regional Office: 9500 Bay Pines Blvd. Bay Pines, FL 33744; (800) 827-1000
- Intake Site At MacDill Air Force Base: Base Hospital 2nd Floor, Room C 277 Tampa, FL 33621
- South Florida National Cemetery: 6501 S. State Road 7 Lake Worth, FL 33449; (561) 649-6489
For a full directory, head to https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/state.asp?STATE=FL&dnum=ALL
Employment resources for Veterans
Looking for employment help? Here are some key resources:
- CareerOneStop has many career resources, including job advice and an online search portal.
- MilitaryHire.com helps veterans and spouses find a civilian job that uses their military skills.
- VeteranRecruiting.com has online career fairs for veterans and military spouses.
- Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit program, works with veterans and active military members transition into a civilian career in construction
- Hiring Our Heroes has hiring events, fellowship programs, career training, and more for veterans, military members, and families
- My Next Move helps veterans find a civilian career using their military skills
- Warriors to Work connects potential employers and veterans
The Bottom Line
Florida debt relief comes in many forms, from debt settlement programs to state debt collection laws to economic relief programs. Whatever you’re looking for, these resources can help you get back on your feet and build toward a more financially stable future.
Most consumer debts can be collected for up to 5 years.
The statute of limitations begins when you fail to make a payment on time, or after making your last payment.
In Florida, most debts incurred during marriage are considered joint debts and will be split along with marital assets. Florida isn’t a community property state, so the debt may not be split equally, however.