A new report on poverty issued by United Way takes a fresh look at who is living in poverty in the U.S. The ALICE report was the focus of a forum at Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh this week.
ALICE is the acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. United Ways in several states including New York have issued reports assessing the levels and struggles of the working poor.
During a Mountain Lake PBS forum this week, United Way of the Adirondack Region CEO John Bernardi said the report provides a new lens on poverty. “What we're seeing now is working families, people that are employed, that are struggling to make ends meet despite their efforts to work two and three jobs sometimes per household. Yet they're close to the edge of that financial cliff. So we're seeing a very different face of poverty. And the ALICE report provides some very enlightening and interesting data in which to view the way poverty looks today. And the demographic that we've seen growing is this poverty in terms of working families and household incomes that do not allow families to make ends meet without assistance.”
The report finds that 44 percent of households across New York live below the ALICE threshold. Yet Bernardi says federal guidelines find only 15 percent of New York households in poverty. “The federal government would have us believe that if you make in excess of $12,000 a year, then you don't live in poverty. And if you're a family of four and you're making $23,000 dollars a year then you don't live in poverty. Well we know from the ALICE report and the ALICE data that actually a family of four in this region would need to make almost $60,000 per household to live without assistance and an individual would need to make right around $23,000. So the gap between the federal poverty limit and the ALICE threshold is considerable.”
The ALICE report notes the cost of living outpaces wages, and economic conditions for ALICE families worsened between 2007 and 2014. It also finds while assistance helps, it does not create financial stability. Sandra Weber moved to Elizabethtown in the Adirondacks about five years ago. “As I was contemplating moving up here full time I looked at how much money do I need per year to survive. And I wanted to let you know your statistics are right on because I came up with $24,000. Second of all, earlier in my life I was an ALICE. I was a single mother raising two daughters for about ten years. Part of what's going on there is not only a financial crisis within the family but an emotional crisis. And so everything we can do to help to alleviate that stress within the family. Because it's really that I think that stress that creates even more of an obstacle to success for that family as much as the finance.”
The Mountain Lake Journal Community Forum on Rural Poverty will air at 8 pm. Friday and will be available online.