ALICE, a United Way acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working hard, but are unable to afford basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation. In most cases, they are not eligible for public assistance because they are, in fact, earning income above the federal poverty level. These struggling working poor individuals and families are faced with difficult choices daily, often detrimental in the long run. Put food on the table or gas in the car? Take a sick child to the doctor or pay the utility bill?
In the Wabash Valley, 44% of our households are ALICE.
We all know ALICE. They’re the hard-working people who make us feel at home in our communities. They’re the cashier at your grocery store; the waitress at your favorite restaurant; the teller at your local bank; the teacher at your child’s daycare; and the single mom working two part-time jobs.
ALICE households are working households and pay taxes; they hold jobs and provide services that are vital to the economy in a variety of industries from retail to foodservice. The problem is that these industries do not pay enough to afford the basic necessities.
With the Wabash Valley seeing the growth of low-skilled jobs outpacing that of medium and high-skilled jobs, this will continue to compound the problem as the cost of basic necessities continues to rise.
ALICE in our Community
JENNIFER: Pregnant at 19 she put herself through college. But upon graduation she made too much for help with daycare, and was unable to pay all the bills. With no one there to tell her how to fix it, she worked multiple jobs just to juggle expenses. Today Jennifer and her now teenage son are both working to manage it all.
HEATHER: She saves lives, but still lives paycheck to paycheck. On paper, she and her boyfriend look well off, but once you add in all their expenses they just can’t get ahead. Because of that, it takes her neighbors and family pitching in to make sure her children are taken care of.
ALICE, the struggling working poor, earns above the federal poverty level, but does not earn enough to afford a bare-bones household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. The United Way ALICE Reports use new measures to provide a more accurate picture of financial insecurity in local communities.
In the Wabash Valley
This isn’t just a household problem; it’s a community problem. How can our community thrive when over 40 percent of our households don’t earn enough to achieve a “survival budget”?
Economic success in our households is a win for companies that employ them and also stabilizes the fabric of our community. Lawmakers, schools, businesses and social service agencies must come together to raise awareness, remove barriers and create long-term solutions.
It takes everyone, and the United Way is changing our methodology to bring them all together. Learn more by checking out our new Strategic Plan.
John and Tina were ALICE. They were working hard but struggling to make ends meet because of a bad living situation. But, with the help of multiple organizations they are now in a new home and working toward a brighter future.
CLICK HERE to see John and Tina’s story.
This data is gathered from a multi-state study completed by Rutgers University, in partnership with United Ways around the country. The ALICE Report can help our community better understand how poverty is more than a federal government statistic, and involves real, struggling working families.