Say Hello to ALICE
Who is ALICE, you ask? ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed and is made up of individuals and families who are working and cannot afford the basic needs including housing, child care, food, transportation and healthcare. Sound familiar? The families of the Family Promise Network and New Leaf programs are ALICE and so are 37% of individuals and families in NJ.
The first ALICE Study was completed in New Jersey in 2012 and has since been replicated in 14 other states. It not only measures poverty but the composition of this group by race, age, ethnicity and household makeup. The New Jersey ALICE Report updated for 2016 reveals that since the report was first conducted:
1) there has been greater increase in the cost of living,
2) a decrease in the number of jobs that pay a living wage, and
3) a greater shortage of affordable housing throughout the state.
The study reports that the Survival Budget – the actual costs of basic necessities (housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation) in New Jersey, adjusted for Bergen County – for a single adult with one toddler needing childcare required a salary of over $42,000 a year. And this salary covers only the basics, no savings, no frills. This is a significant problem when 52% of all jobs in NJ are paying less than $20 per hour and nearly three quarters of these, below $15 per hour.
The report also highlights the fact that ALICE families “are typically ineligible for public and private assistance because their earnings are above qualifying limits.”
Not all ALICE families become homeless. In fact, most do not. But they struggle daily with difficult choices such as whether to use the remainder of their paycheck for food or a doctor’s visit or to replace the tires on the car or pay for childcare. When ALICE families are forced to make these choices, we all face serious consequences.
As many of us know, the most common response to homelessness, hunger, medical emergency or illness is temporary and “not designed to move households to long-term, financial stability.
This is where Family Promise comes in. We create positive, meaningful changes for ALICE families. We already implement some of the Alice study recommendations. We give families the tools to succeed on their own as we await the economic and policy changes needed to stabilize and improve the lives of ALICE families.
Meet Alice. She is not some stranger; Alice is our neighbor. She is all of the Family Promise families. And she needs our help.
For ideas how you can help, please read the articles in this month’s newsletter.