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Statewide Study Reveals Two in Five Ohio Households Struggle to Afford Basic Needs

United Way of Greater Cleveland – through United Way ALICE Report – details size and scope of financial hardship in its region: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Medina counties

Ralph J. Davila, APR
Director, News & Community Content
216-436-2205, 330-207-5167 cell

Secondary Contact:
Sylvia Pérez Cash
VP, Strategic Programs and Knowledge
T: 216-436-2106


CLEVELAND (Oct. 4, 2017) – More than 272,000 of households in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Medina Counties are unable to afford the state’s cost of living, with conditions still lagging behind pre-recession levels, according to the United Way ALICE Report released today by Ohio United Way.

ALICE® – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, a study of financial hardship, places a spotlight on a large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency from falling into poverty.

“Based on present-day income levels and expenses, the report quantifies who in Ohio’s workforce is struggling financially and why,” United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Vice President, Strategic Programs and Knowledge, Sylvia Pérez Cash. “This report is important in helping us understand the depth and breadth of those living on the brink of financial crisis. It also gives United Way of Greater Cleveland yet another measure, in addition to our in-depth Community Assessment of the needs of Cuyahoga County residents, on how we can help our region’s residents achieve financial stability.”

A total of 1.2 million households fall into what is called the ALICE population: households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. This number is nearly double the official poverty rate, which accounts for only 660,000 households in the state. Combined, ALICE and poverty households account for 40 percent of the Ohio population.

“Many of us know ALICE individuals and families,” added United Way of Medina County CEO, Cheryl Parzych. “ALICE can be anyone from the recent college graduate that’s unable to afford to live on his or her own to the young family strapped by high child care costs. In Medina County, we have nearly 19,000 ALICE households working hard, some at several jobs, to make ends meet. We need to lend a helping hand to ensure our county’s economic well-being.”

Ohio United Way has joined a grassroots movement of some 450 United Ways in 15 states to use the same methodology for documenting financial need. The reports build on a United Way study first developed in New Jersey. United Way ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

“This report provides the objective data that shows that even those individuals and families in rural areas, just like inner city and suburban, can experience poverty and still struggle while having a job,” stated United Way Services of Geauga County Executive Director, Kimm Leininger. “While we have known all along that families in our community were struggling, it wasn’t until this report was completed that we realized the extent of the issue, 8,600 households in Geauga County face issues of poverty and financial hardship. How poverty is determined at the Federal level is out-of-date and inadequate for those struggling to survive and we need to take action.”

The United Way ALICE Report reveals:

  • More than 67 percent of all jobs in Ohio pay less than $40,000 a year and low-income jobs are projected to dominate the state’s economy for the foreseeable future. These jobs include services essential to Cuyahoga, Geauga and Medina counties, such as cashiers, elementary school teachers, home health aides, laborers and retail salespersons.
  • Households with income below the ALICE Threshold make up between 27 and 46 percent of households in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Medina counties, with the city of Cleveland at 67 percent.
  • Forty-six percent of our three-county region’s 102 subdivisions have 30 percent or more households unable to make ends meet. The average income needed to survive in Ohio depends on local conditions and runs just over $65,000 in our three-county region annually for a family of four, nearly triple the official U.S. poverty rate.
  • Despite the combination of ALICE’s wages and some public assistance, ALICE households still face a 40 to 50 percent income gap in housing and child care, further hindering their attempts to reach financial stability.

United Way of Greater Cleveland is focused on providing the basic foundation in the areas of education, financial stability, health and basic needs to help improve the lives of both ALICE households or population and those in poverty, for the long-term benefit of the wider community.

For more information or to find data about ALICE in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Medina counties, visit


Editor’s Note: For one-on-one interviews, full survey documents and more, please contact Ralph J. Davila, APR at 216-435-2205 or email at

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