LANHAM — United Way of the National Capital Area released its second Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report revealing that 35 percent of households throughout Prince George’s County cannot afford basic needs such as housing, childcare, food, transportation, healthcare or a communication device such as a smartphone.
This report provides up to date, comprehensive data on the ALICE population. These households have incomes above the Federal Poverty Level but still struggle to afford basic needs.
There are 540 United Ways organizations in 18 states. United Way of the National Capital Area has been advocating for the health, education and financial stability of those living in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County for over 40 years.
The first ALICE Report was released in 2017 looked at data from 2014 and showed that 35 percent of people in Maryland, and 29 percent of people in Prince George’s County, lived in poverty or qualified as ALICE.
This years report, looking at 2016 data, shows that 38 percent of Marylanders and 35 percent of people in Prince George’s County, now qualify as ALICE.
The number of ALICE households differ throughout the county, but the towns with the highest percentage are Bladensburg at 75 percent, Landover at 70 percent, Mount Rainier at 70 percent, Glassmanor at 68 percent and Langley Park at 64 percent. The towns with the lowest percentage include Woodmore, Accokeek and Rosaryville at 20 percent or lower.
“We are seeing the rate of poverty fairly flat across the state of Maryland from 2010 to 2016, but we’re seeing the number of ALICE households increasing,” said Stephanie Hoopes, lead researcher and director of the United Way ALICE project. “This may seem a little surprising in light of the really good economic news we’re hearing; unemployment is low, productivity has increased, the stock market is booming. We have a lot of good things happening, and yet that good economic news is not reaching all households.”
The report looks at many factors contributing to the increase such as household type and age. Single or cohabiting households are affected the most with 36 percent falling into the ALICE population as well as families with children with 39 percent qualifying as ALICE. Those between the ages of 25 and 65 mainly fall into ALICE while only 29 percent of those 65 and older meet the ALICE threshold.
Unfortunately for ALICE, the cost of living is increasing while wages are not. The average household survival budget for a family of four in Prince George’s County is $74,064, and these families are not meeting that threshold with low-wage jobs dominating the job market and half of those jobs paying less than $20 per hour.
Other trends contributing to the increase in ALICE households are migrating in and out of the state, job markets instability such as an increase in “gig” and contractual jobs and the cost of access to health insurance.
All of these factors combined force ALICE families to make risky choices affecting their families and putting them into hard situations. For example, Hurricane Florence could affect people by causing damage that they can’t afford to fix or put them out of work for days.
“With Florence coming, that is a huge threat to the stability of ALICE households,” Hoopes said. “If the electricity goes out for a couple of days, businesses are closed, ALICE can’t get to work, ALICE can’t get paid for one, two or three days and may not be able to pay the rent and that is before there is any damage from flooding, damage to the car and damage to the roof.”
United Ways not only releases these ALICE Reports but works with the community to try to reduce the number of people in the ALICE population. One of those initiatives is their financial empowerment centers where people can come and get getting financial coaching and referrals to partners to help them with workforce development and other critical needs to improve their situation.
Another is their Community Schools Initiative where they work primarily with middle school students to ensure that they arrive at high school performing on grade level so that when they graduate they can get a good career, go off to college to get a degree and increase their earning potential or go off to some other positive outcome. The Community Schools Initiative operates in Hyattsville Middle School, William Wirt Middle School, Buck Lodge Middle School and Nicholas Orem Middle School.
Despite this, Timothy Johnson, vice president of community impact of United Way of the National Capital Area, says that he can see the ALICE population increasing unless something is done at a policy level.
“About half the jobs in the state of Maryland pay less than $20 an hour, so that means that families in Maryland are really struggling to make some really hard choices,” he said. “As much as United Way and our partners that work with us combat this and provide them with knowledge, skills and abilities to make great choices and provide great programming, at the end of the day, you have to have the revenue to turn this around.”