April 27, 2023
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Navigating the Challenges & Financial Hardships of ALICE
New ALICE Report shows pandemic aid temporarily blunted the financial crisis, yet warning signs are on the horizon
Hernando County, Florida — ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than what is needed to survive in the modern economy (the ALICE Threshold). ALICE is our nation’s child care workers, home health aides and cashiers heralded during the pandemic – those working low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and are one crisis away from poverty. These individuals have been overlooked and undercounted by traditional poverty measures.
Insert the release of United Way’s newest ALICE Florida Report: “ALICE in the Crosscurrents”. As highlighted in the new Report, researched by the United For ALICE collaborative, the Covid-19 pandemic brought employment shifts, health struggles, and school/business closures in 2021, it also spurred unprecedented public assistance through pandemic relief measures. The ranks of Florida residents unable to afford the basic necessities grew by more than twice as much during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a total of 3.9 million households (or 45%) struggling to afford basics means by 2021. As highlighted in the ALICE Report, in 2019, 36,935 households in Hernando County were below the ALICE Threshold; by 2021 this number increased by 6% to a total of 39,331 households.
While job disruptions and inflation delivered significant financial pain, a combination of pandemic supports and rising wages did help to blunt what could have been a deeper financial crisis, the Report finds. However, as some benefits are peeled back, and inflation persists, signs of greater financial stress are on the horizon. “Since the initial release of the ALICE in Florida Report in 2014, our United Way has made it our mission to advocate for this struggling, hard-working population that is often falls through the cracks, or faced with financial barrier after barrier,” said United Way of Hernando County’s Executive Director, Angie B. Walasek. “Over the past three years, whether it’s working closely with an individual to find stable employment, helping a household overcome their grief of losing a loved one during the pandemic, or assisting a family with access to childcare so they can go to work, our team continues to respond to the ripple effects of the pandemic even now,” Walasek explained. “Competing forces of the pandemic, such as job disruptions, inflation, pandemic assistance, etc., have made it difficult to predict the long-term impact on financial stability for our ALICE households. The trends are there though,” she continued. “With local and state leaders being data driven, we strive to educate and use this Report to better develop and drive effective policies and solutions to reduce some of these financial hardships.”
In 2021, household costs in Hernando County were well above the Federal Poverty Level of $12,880 for a single adult and $26,500 for a family of four. The pandemic’s impact has affected 58,907 more Hernando households, making them financially insecure. “I work two jobs and my husband has a full-time position. We’re really struggling to keep up with our bills. It feels like every month we’re falling further and further behind. The stress of not being able to pay our bills on time is overwhelming. It’s a constant worry that never goes away. I just don’t know what to do,” shared a local Hernando County resident looking for resources.
According to the Report, for a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the annual ALICE Household Survival Budget, which is the basic cost needed to live and work in Hernando County, was $83,160 in 2021. The Child Tax Credit and Child Dependent Care Tax Credit helped to soften the blow by deducting $1,225 off their monthly total, bringing the family Survival Budget down to $68,460. Even with the variety of temporary pandemic supports available, in 2021, a family of four with two-full time workers, earning a combined hourly wage of $34.23, as a retail salesperson and a cashier – two of the most common occupations in Florida – fell short of affording the family budget by $2,738.
“A positive change during the pandemic was that tax credits, stimulus payments and rental assistance were available for ALICE households and provided strong relief,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., United For ALICE National Director. “However, as some of
these supports come to an end, growing food insufficiency and other indicators reveal continued stress. Ignoring these warning signs places ALICE, our economy and the well-being of our communities at great risk.”
Learn more about ALICE in your community. To explore the Report and access online, interactive dashboards that provide data on financial hardship at the state, county and local level, visit United4ALICE.org/ALICECrosscurrents. Become an ALICE advocate and join United Ways across the state, as local leaders host community conversations around solutions for this struggling population. More on Hernando County can be found at UnitedWayHernando.org/ALICE.
About United For ALICE
United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, research and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners convene, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at local, state and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 27 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.
United Way of Hernando County, Inc.:
United Way of Hernando County (UWHC) was established as a 501c3 organization in 1987, and since then has continuously focused on creating partnerships and mobilizing our community to seek sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing local needs. UWHC strategically allocates Community Investment Funds in Health, Education, & Financial Stability programs with proven results and local impact. UWHC works hard to balance the growing demand for basic services such as food, utilities, and rent assistance, with our ongoing commitment to tackling the underlying causes of complex issues. United Way partners with businesses and organizations that share our vision for improving lives through the power of collective impact and working together. Our support for long-term commitments are essential to addressing key social issues, such as helping children, youth, adults & elders, encouraging health and wellness, including physical and emotional care, promoting financial stability and self-sufficiency, and crisis intervention. For more information on how YOU can LIVE UNITED, visit www.UnitedWayHernando.org.