At our last Community Impact Tour, we saw and learned about several United Way partner agencies that serve ALICE families, and had the opportunity to visit and hear from three: Baxter Community Center, Jubilee Jobs, and Health Net.
Poverty is a serious reality for 2 in 5 households in Kent County. 24 percent of Kent County households earn more than the U.S. poverty level but less that the basic cost of living for the county. 15 percent of households in Kent County are at or below the poverty line.
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. 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 taking care of the immediate needs of ALICE families while also addressing the underlying causes of financial instability. The needs of ALICE households in Kent County are complex and they cannot be addressed by one person, one agency, or one community organization. United Way is able to connect thousands of donors to more than 60 local organizations that help address many needs.
Education, income, and health are intricately linked. We know that a good education leads to a good job, and we know that people who are financially stable are more likely to have access to quality health care. That’s why United Way has a comprehensive approach that includes more than 100 nonprofit programs. In 2013, we provided $10 million in essential resources to local organizations. These dollars directly impact children, adults, families and seniors – improving lives and positively influencing our community. We are all connected and interdependent. When families here are financially stable and able to thrive, we all benefit.