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.
The newly released ALICE report by Ohio United Way paints a detailed picture of financial instability in each Ohio county. ALICE – Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed – represents 27 percent of the households in Ohio that bring home a paycheck that is insufficient to cover the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, healthcare, and transportation. When combined with the number of households living under the federal poverty level, the total percentage of Ohio families struggling to afford basic needs rises to 40 percent.
The voices of ALICE
United Way Greater Cleveland hears the voice of ALICE from 26 counties across the state, 24 hours per day/ 7 days a week, when they call our 2-1-1 Helpline seeking assistance for issues such as food, rent, utilities or medication. They tell us about the challenges they face and they ask for help. We tell them about the government and nonprofits programs that offer solutions and opportunity. We make the important and meaningful connections between people and services that can change a person’s life for the better.
Who needs to listen?
As government struggles with their own financial stability challenges at the local, state and federal level, we hope they will listen closely to the voices of ALICE.
United Way of Greater Cleveland, with community partners, strives to raise up the voices of ALICE and those living in poverty to our elected officials and regulatory administrators. We want to help them consider the impact of their decisions on our most vulnerable families. If income or sales tax is raised, how will it affect those who are barely making ends meet? If funding for food and utility assistance is cut, will children go to bed cold and hungry? If payday lending is reformed, will it change the financial trajectory of ALICE households? If the Earned Income Tax Credit is expanded how will it impact those walking on a financial tightrope?
What are we doing to impact ALICE?
In Cuyahoga, Medina and Geauga counties – United Way of Greater Cleveland’s three-county footprint – we are working with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, committed community volunteers and dedicated staff to fight poverty and create financial stability in our community.
We will use the ALICE report to:
- Remove stigmas/stereotypes associated with the “working poor,” who are struggling, hard-working taxpayers who deserve help
- Protect the safety net and advocate for strategies to help a family cope with an emergency and prevent a spiral into poverty
- Advocate for long-term strategies to help families achieve and maintain financial stability
This isn’t just a household problem; it’s a community problem. How can Ohio thrive when over one-third of our state lives below the federal poverty level and/or don’t earn enough to make a bare-minimum household “survival budget?”
What can you do with us?
It is incumbent upon all of us to help ALICE families avoid being one crisis away from spiraling into poverty.
Stability in the lives of ALICE is positive for companies that employ them and helps stabilize the economic fabric of our community. Lawmakers, schools, businesses and social service agencies all need to come together to raise awareness, remove barriers and create long-term solutions.
That’s what democracy is all about – citizens, businesses and government coming together in a non-partisan manner to resolve community problems. We hope you will join the movement and help our ALICE individuals and families prosper by visiting www.unitedwaycleveland.org/ALICE.
To learn more about what United Way of Greater Cleveland is doing to address poverty in northeast Ohio, sign up to receive our community newsletter.