DO YOU KNOW ALICE?
Of course you do. ALICE is everywhere. From Opelousas to Eunice, Arnaudville to Washington, Ville Platte to Mamou, the entire St. Landry and Evangeline Parishes - ALICE lives in the wonderful mosaic of communities that make up Acadiana. ALICE represents community members working in jobs that are needed, but don’t always pay enough to afford the basics, such as our child care teachers, home health aides, mechanics, store clerks, office assistants and more. ALICE is men and women of all ages and races. ALICE is your customers, constituents, neighbors - even family members and friends. ALICE is the ‘working poor’.
St. Landry-Evangeline United Way, in conjunction with the Louisiana Association of United Ways, has just published the updated version of the ALICE Report. The original ALICE Report Update for Louisiana was released in January 2016, with an additional update released in 2017. The new report advances that information by two years, updating data sources from 2014 to 2016. The United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana reveals that nearly half of Louisiana households struggle to make ends meet.
The United Way ALICE Report employs a Household Survival Budget (HSB), incorporating household costs such as housing, food, child care, transportation, healthcare, technology and taxes establishing a threshold for ALICE to survive. The average HSB for ALICE households in St. Landry Parish estimates $17,064 is needed for individuals and $50,904 for a 2 parent/1 preschooler/1 infant family to afford the bare minimum. In Evangeline Parish those estimates are $16,848 and $50,532 respectively. While this exceeds the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) of $11,490 for a single adult and $23,550 for a family of four, ALICE can barely live paycheck to paycheck.
Our goals are to give ALICE a voice, leverage the hard work of United Way and other nonprofits, and make it clear more needs to be done to help ALICE and those living in poverty so we can build a better, stronger Louisiana. We believe the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana can equip communities with information to create innovative solutions.
WHO IS ALICE?
With the cost of living higher than what most wages pay, ALICE families work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, technology, and health care. ALICE households live in every parish in Louisiana – urban, suburban, and rural. They include women and men, young and old, of all races and ethnicities.
In Louisiana, 828,255 households – fully 48 percent – struggled to afford basic household necessities in 2016.
Louisiana's percentage of ALICE households puts it at the third highest percentage of all 50 states.
While the Federal Poverty Level reports that only 19% (327,037 Households) of Louisiana households face financial hardship, an additional 23% qualify as ALICE. In Southeast Louisiana 42% of the population is ALICE.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ALICE HOUSEHOLDS IN LOUISIANA?
Low wage jobs dominate the local economy: More than 70 percent of jobs in Louisiana pay less than $20 per hour, with most paying less than $15 per hour ($15 per hour full time = $30,000/year). These jobs – especially service jobs that pay below $20 per hour and require only a high school education or less – will grow far faster than higher-wage jobs over the next decade.
The basic cost of living outpaces wages: The cost of basic household expenses in Louisiana is more than most of the region’s jobs can support [Economic Viability Dashboard]. The average annual Household Survival Budget for a Louisiana family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) is $43,032, an increase of almost $600 since the last report – nearly double the U.S. family poverty level of $23,550. Single Household Survival Budget $16,212 with the poverty level set at $11,490.
Jobs are not located near housing that is affordable: After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and through the Great Recession from 2007 to 2010, housing affordability fell by one-third, and job opportunities fell 9 percent. Conditions did not improve from 2010 to 2013, so it remains difficult for ALICE households to find both housing affordability and job opportunities in many parishes in Louisiana.
Public and private assistance helps, but doesn’t achieve financial stability: Assistance provides essential support for households below the ALICE Threshold but cannot lift all households to economic stability. Government, nonprofit, and health care organizations spend $10 billion on services for ALICE and poverty-level households in Louisiana to supplement their income, but even that total is still 14 percent short of lifting all households above the ALICE Threshold.
Consequences: When ALICE households cannot make ends meet, they are forced to make difficult choices such as forgoing health care, accredited child care, healthy food, or car insurance. These “savings” threaten their health, safety, and future – and they reduce productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes for everyone. The costs are high for both ALICE families and the wider community.
Effective change: While short-term strategies can make conditions less severe, only structural economic changes will significantly improve the prospects for ALICE and enable hardworking households to support themselves. Strengthening the Louisiana economy and meeting ALICE’s challenges are linked: Improvement for one would directly benefit the other. The ALICE tools can help policymakers, community leaders, and business leaders to better understand the magnitude and variety of households facing financial hardship, and to create more effective change.