Do you know ALICE?
Poverty is a serious reality for 2 in 5 households in Kent County. ALICE, an acronym for "asset-limited, income-constrained employed," are the households that earn more than the U.S. poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county.
In West Michigan, the bare minimum budget to cover basic cost-of-living expenses for a family of four requires an hourly wage of $27.20. Program Manager for United Way's Kent County Tax Credit Coalition, Brenda Brame, says ALICE households include workers in the service industry, mechanics, bank tellers, childcare workers and others who are the backbone of the Michigan economy.
"ALICE represents people of all ages, people of all ethnicities, who get up each day and go to work," says Brame. "People who we connect with every day, who smile at us and give us great community service, while they're barely making it."
The poverty rate for children under the age of 18 increased to 23% in 2012, and this is also becoming a growing problem among Michigan's elderly and military veterans. Combined, the number of poverty and ALICE households equals 39% of people in Kent County who are struggling to afford basic needs.
There are serious consequences for both ALICE households and their communities. ALICE households are forced to make difficult choices such as skipping preventative health care, accredited child care, healthy food or car insurance. These “savings” threaten their health, safety, and future – and they reduce Michigan’s economic productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes for everyone.
Heart of West Michigan United Way's goal is to create long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes of these problems and stabilizing 15,000 or more lower-income households. We are all connected and interdependent. When families here are financially stable, we all win.
Read the full 249-page report here.
This bare-minimum budget does not allow for any savings, leaving a household vulnerable to unexpected expenses. Affording only a very modest living in each community, this budget is still significantly more than the U.S. poverty rate (which has not been updated since 1974) of $11,170 for a single adult and $23,050 for a family of four.