THE ALICE PROJECT
Though ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) might be an unfamiliar acronym, the individuals it represents are hardly unknown; they are the real people that make up Florida communities- our neighbors, coworkers and friends. The ALICE population is made up of those who live above the poverty line ($24,250 for a family of four), but whose salary does not cover the costs of living- expenses such as childcare, food, transportation and healthcare. According to the 2017 Florida ALICE Report, a staggering 44% of households in our state fall into this category. These individuals are working – often at more than one job – but are still unable to provide for themselves and their families.
United Way is committed to ensuring that our communities are viable places to live and work. To do that, we promote current research, community dialogue, and data-driven policy solutions. These elements form the basis of one of United Way’s broadest and fastest-growing initiatives – the ALICE Project.
DO YOU KNOW ALICE?
Of course you do. ALICE is everywhere. From Leon to Wakulla, Gadsden to Madison, Taylor to Franklin, Liberty to Jefferson – ALICE lives in every corner of the Big Bend. ALICE represents community members working in jobs that are needed, but don’t always pay enough to afford the basics, such as our child care teachers, home health aides, mechanics, store clerks, office assistants and more. ALICE is men and women of all ages and races. ALICE is your customers, constituents, neighbors – even family members and friends.
United Way of the Big Bend, in conjunction with the United Way of Florida and United Ways throughout our state, has updated the groundbreaking study of financial hardship in our state. The 2017 United Way ALICE Report for Florida reveals that of our state’s 7.5 million households, 14.5 percent lived in poverty in 2015 and another 29.5 percent were ALICE. Combined, 44 percent had income below the ALICE Threshold, or 3.3 million, up from 2.6 million in 2007.
The United Way ALICE Report employs a Household Survival Budget (HSB), incorporating household costs such as housing, food, child care, transportation, healthcare and taxes establishing a threshold for ALICE to survive. In Florida, the average HSB for an individual is estimated to be $19,176 for a single adult and $53,856 for a 2 parent/1 preschooler/1 infant family to afford the bare minimum. However HSB’s can vary greatly from county to county. For example, in Leon County, the HSB for ALICE households is estimated to be $ $20,700 for individuals and $52,260 for a 2 parent/1 preschooler/1 infant family to afford the bare minimum. In both cases, the actual costs far exceed the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) of $11,770 for a single adult and $24,250 for a family of four.
Our goals are to give ALICE a voice, leverage the hard work of United Way and other nonprofits, and make it clear more needs to be done to help ALICE and those living in poverty so we can build a better, stronger Big Bend. We believe the United Way ALICE Report for Florida can equip communities with information to create innovative solutions.
WHO IS ALICE?
With the cost of living higher than what most wages pay, ALICE families work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. ALICE households live in every county in Florida, including right here in the Big Bend – urban, suburban, and rural. They include women and men, young and old, of all races and ethnicities.
Of Florida’s 7.5 million households, 14.5 percent lived in poverty in 2015 and another 29.5 percent were ALICE. Combined, 44 percent had income below the ALICE Threshold, or 3.3 million, up from 2.6 million in 2007. In the Big Bend, 163,265 household struggled to afford basic necessities like food, childcare, health care, housing and transportation.
Take a Closer Look
ALICE represents the hardworking, tax-paying individuals who get up every day to go to work like the rest of us, but who aren’t sure how they will make ends meet.
ALICE represents workers who provide invaluable services we all rely on in our daily lives. ALICE is living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to set aside savings for an emergency and forced to make short-term choices that can result in long-term consequences. Do I get a payday loan to get the kids ready for school? Do I pay the utilities or pay rent? Do I buy my medications or put dinner on the table? Do I pay for car insurance? Do I live farther away from my job?
ALICE is vulnerable to just one emergency – one health incident, one car repair, one harsh storm. When that emergency occurs, ALICE may not be able to get to work, which has a domino effect. ALICE can quickly spiral into poverty. Meanwhile, our child loses that teacher who’s built a rapport in the preschool class, our parent loses that home health aide who made sure they took their proper medications, and we lose the mechanic who made sure our cars run smoothly.
When ALICE suffers, we all suffer and our local economies suffer. If ALICE can’t afford the basics, that household cannot help to stimulate the economy with purchasing power. If ALICE falls into poverty, that puts a greater strain on local services. If ALICE cannot save for the future, we will all bear the cost.
WHO IS STRUGGLING?
While the Federal Poverty Level reports that only 14.5 percent of Florida households face financial hardship, an additional 29.5 percent are ALICE. Locally, seven out of the eight counties that make up the Big Bend are above the state average of 44% of households that fall short of the ALICE threshold.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ALICE HOUSEHOLDS IN FLORIDA?
The basic cost of living outpaces wages: Household expenses increased steadily in every county in Florida between 2007 and 2015. Average budget rose by 19 percent, more than the national rate of inflation of 14 percent during that time period. In 2015, the average annual Household Survival Budget for a Florida family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) was $53,856 – more than double the U.S. family poverty level of $24,250.
Low-wage jobs continue to dominate Florida’s economy: In our state, 67 percent of all jobs in the state paying less than $20 per hour — a wage that is almost enough to afford the family Household Survival Budget. However, three-quarters of these jobs pay less than $15 per hour. ($15 per hour full time = $30,000/year). These jobs – especially service jobs that pay below $20 per hour and require only a high school education or less – will grow far faster than higher-wage jobs over the next decade.
The basic cost of living outpaces wages: The cost of basic household expenses in Florida is more than most of the region’s jobs can support. The average annual Household Survival Budget for a Florida family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) is $53,856 – more than double the U.S. family poverty level of $24,250.
Public and private assistance helps, but doesn’t achieve financial stability: Assistance provides essential support for households below the ALICE Threshold but cannot lift all households to economic stability. Since 2012, the amount needed to bring all ALICE households to financial stability has grown faster than wages and government spending. Notably, health care spending increased by 17 percent, accounting for 55 percent of all public and nonprofit spending on ALICE and poverty-level households.
Consequences: The effects of financial instability are far reaching; when such a large percent of the population earns too little for a sustainable lifestyle, communities are likely to feel the consequences. When ALICE children are not prepared to start school, the education system is burdened. When ALICE households cannot afford preventative health care, they are more likely to place future burdens on the health care system, raising insurance premiums for all. When ALICE families cannot invest in their neighborhood, communities can experience a decline in economic growth.
For these reasons, our communities have a vested interest in creating opportunities for the ALICE population to become financially secure. While no organization or individual can do this alone, we can all contribute to the practical solutions that will improve quality of life for numerous households.
THE BIG BEND AT-A-GLANCE
ALICE lives in every county in Florida. See how ALICE looks in our eight-county region: