ALICE in the Crosscurrents

We all know people who are ALICE: Asset limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Earning more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basics where they live. Despite working hard as our nation’s child care educators, home health aides, and cashiers, ALICE lives paycheck to paycheck and is one emergency away from falling into financial ruin.

ALICE essential workers are integral to our community. And as the pandemic showed us, many of them are the essential workers who kept our economy and our way of life going. We continue to rely on ALICE workers every day – from the childcare educator to the grocery store clerk to the delivery person to the home health aide. But what happens when cash-strapped ALICE households are forced to make impossible choices such as deciding between a car repair and quality childcare, heat or a prescription? These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for ALICE, but for all of us.

With a mission to build powerful partnerships that improve outcomes for children, families, and individuals in need, the United Way of Southeastern Idaho is committed to understanding the needs of everyone in our communities, as well as identifying the opportunities that help raise entire communities to success. United for ALICE data helps us better understand the impact of financial hardships on communities and offers insight into possible solutions. The experience of ALICE is seen in every community, across every state nationwide – impacting folks of every age, race, ethnicity, gender, and ability.

A few key data explored in the new ALICE report for Idaho and southeastern Idaho (Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, and Power counties):
  • Nearly 40% of southeastern Idahoans are unable to afford the basics.
  • Of southeast Idaho’s 63,049 households in 2021…
    • 12% earned below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL)
    • 27% were ALICE, in households that earned above the FPL but not enough to afford the basics in the communities where they live.
    • Together, 39% of households in SE Idahoans were below the ALICE threshold (poverty + ALICE divided by total households)
    • A dizzying 80% of Idaho’s ALICE population are single female parent households compared to 25% of married households.

The 2021 Survival Budget is comprised of six essential areas: Housing, childcare and education, food, transportation, health care and technology

Between 2019 and 2021 the survival budget in Idaho increased by an average of nearly 15%… Despite the increases we’ve seen to wages in the last 2 years, the faster and ever-growing costs in goods and services further widens the gap between survival and stability budgets for ALICE families.
  • A single adult household’s survival budget increased by 17% from $21,276 in 2019 to $24,900 in 2021
  • A two adult with two children (one infant and a toddler in preschool) increased by 12.3% from $54,096 in 2019 to $60,744 in 2021
  • While a two senior household realized the largest increase at nearly 30% from $37,776 in 2019 to $48,156 in 2021
Communities across the country are striving to create a person-centered response to overcoming the barriers to financial stability that are rooted in understanding individual specific strengths and challenges and that provide them with an array of choices that meet their needs. As advocates for ALICE and poverty-level families have learned, the effects of financial insecurity can be devastating and include poor health, education, and employment outcomes.

However, there is hope…because the problems facing ALICE families are interconnected, effective solutions must be too. Working toward these solutions will require innovation and vision, to both recognize local factors and address as many areas of struggle as possible. With the clear documentation in the ALICE report of how the issues are interconnected, community stakeholders- family, friends, nonprofits, businesses, and the government- can start to work together to build solutions that are right for their neighbors, towns, cities, counties, and states. Ultimately, if ALICE households can become financially stable, state economies across the country will be stronger and communities more vibrant, improving life not just for ALICE but for everyone.


Shantay Bloxham is the CEO of United Way of Southeastern Idaho.