United Way is committed to helping the needs of the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households.
Poverty rates are important measures of how communities are doing financially. However, the federal poverty line is so low that it does not capture everyone struggling. United Way is committed to helping the needs of ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households.
These community members earn enough money to be above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, taxes, and minor miscellaneous expenses. In Southeastern Idaho 42% of households are financially insecure.1
An unexpected or emergency expense of $400 or more will place these families in a position where they must make difficult decisions as to which bills to pay that month and which to skip.2 Living on this threshold is a constant source of stress and leaves families on the brink of financial ruin every month. Numerous factors impact a household’s ability to be financially stable:
While unemployment rates for SEI are very low, ALICE household numbers illustrate the need for more employers to pay living wages that will help families to stabilize. Currently, there are many working households that cannot meet the basic monthly survival budget.
Living accommodations are a major portion of any family’s budget. In SEI, the cost of homeownership and rent is increasing faster than wages. An individual or family that pays over 30% of their income is considered burdened. In Idaho, one out of three families who rent with wages between $20,000 and $30,000 exceed this threshold. For those with incomes less than $20,000 the statistics are much higher.3 The expanding housing market in the region is good for the construction industry, but the average family is finding they are outpriced and unable to afford a home. This has caused more families to rely upon rental properties and to seek locations further from urban centers where prices are more reasonable for monthly budgets.
"Things are still hard but it is a lot easier because I know I have a place of my own to stay"
– Client for Aid of Friends, Inc.
Young families often find that childcare is one of the largest household expenses. Quality childcare and preschool are expensive. This combined with relatively low wages, leaves many families unable to afford these opportunities for their children. Idaho is one of only four states which do not fund pre-K opportunities, leaving families in a difficult position of finding ways to subsidize this cost.
Nationally about 1 in 7 people are classified as food insecure. SEI households are slightly below the national average and have seen improvements in the last few years.4 However, more than four in ten students qualify for free/reduced-price lunch. As a whole, the percentage of free/reduced-price lunch students has been trending upward. This signifies a greater financial need in SEI’s communities and potentially a shortage of food in the homes of these children. It is also important to note that free/reduced-price lunches are self-reported so it is reasonable to assume that the actual numbers of students in need are higher, but due to stigma, they may elect not to report.
If a person does not have reliable transportation it makes it difficult to maintain employment. Housing costs may go down away from the more urban centers, but commute times and expenses go up due to transportation costs for many of our neighbors. As illustrated in the ALICE Survival Budget, transportation can take up 20% -25% of a household’s needs.5
Homelessness is also a concern. Generally, the number of homeless individuals has been decreasing in the last few years; however, the number of homeless children has increased. The McKinney-Vento Act defines a homeless child and youth as “an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and includes children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing.”
Approximately 2% of Idaho school-aged children are considered homeless under this broader definition.6 This lack of household stability negatively impacts children’s ability to excel along the Cradle to Career continuum, which has life-long implications.
- Encourage new employers to offer living wages (or higher) and other stabilizing benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, education subsidies, etc.
- Support legislative efforts to preserve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
- Support any new affordable housing construction for low to moderate-income households.
- Support programs that aid new homeowners in making down payments; provide education for new lenders to promote responsible fiscal management, etc.
- Promote employers who offer incentives subsidizing higher education or vocational training in their workplace.
- Support homeless shelters, food banks, and other social programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Encourage the use of public transportation and rideshare options.
- Expand walking/biking paths or lanes to provide alternate modes of transportation that are accessible to more community members.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 5-year American Community Survey data, Census Flows Mapper tool
- United Ways of the Pacific Northwest. ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed
- U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 5-year Estimates, 2012-2016, Tables B25106 and B25119
- Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap
- Idaho State Department of Education, Cumulative Homeless Education Data by District
- National Center for Educational Statistics. Revenues and Expenses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2013-2014