When hard working families are struggling to meet the basic necessities to survive, they are often forced to make difficult choices which are not only costly to the family but to the community at-large. The ALICE Report examines the consequences of insufficient household income in the areas of housing, child care, food, transportation and healthcare. These are the essential elements of the ALICE Survival Budget.
ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE earns above the federal poverty level but not enough to meet the basic cost to survive.
Housing is the cornerstone to financial stability but is also the most costly. Finding affordable housing and housing close to an ALICE family’s employment is challenging for many in Ohio. Ohio’s housing stock is older with 41 percent built before 1960, above the national average of 30 percent. Housing built before 1940 accounts for 20 percent of Ohio’s housing stock. Low cost housing tends to be further away from jobs and services which can lead to higher transportation costs. Older housing units pose a risk of greater repairs, safety and health risks. Affordable housing is often in higher crime areas. Senior citizens and millennials will drive the demand for lower cost homes and rental units. Seniors are downsizing and moving into smaller units closer to services. At the same time, younger workers are delaying buying their own homes and choosing to rent creating a shortage of affordable housing.
Education is one of the few ways ALICE families can get ahead in the long run. Finding high-quality affordable child care and affordable higher education opportunities can impact ALICE’s earning potential. In Ohio, 69 percent of all families with children had all available parents in the workforce which is just below the national average of 74 percent in the workforce. Quality early learning experiences are critical to a child’s development that prepares them to enter kindergarten ready and to succeed in school. The average cost for family based child care in Ohio is $755 a month for an infant and $687 per month for a four year old. The cost of a licensed accredited child care center is 11 percent higher. As result of the cost, ALICE families often must choose child care that doesn’t meet the basic safety standards or has inconsistent educational opportunities.
• Food: In Ohio, 17 percent of residents experienced food insecurity in 2014 according to Feeding America. Over all 25 percent of Ohio residents have difficulty accessing healthy foods because they live in areas far from affordable food retailers. ALICE families often work long-hours in low wage jobs and do not have time to regularly buy and prepare low cost meals. According to a 2014 Ohio Foodbanks survey, ALICE families reported eating less food or less healthy food and seeking food assistance and giving up other essentials like utilities, medical care to have money for food. The consequences of not having enough food or access to healthy foods can result in eating foods higher in fat, sodium and sugar that result in obesity, heart disease, low energy levels and poor nutrition. For children, lack of sufficient food can cause developmental delays and health problems that can impact learning.
• Transportation: Public transportation is a far less expensive way to commute to work but is not widely available in most parts of Ohio. Most ALICE families depend on vehicles to get to work and this can be costly. The average cost for owning and operating a car in the U.S. ranges from $6000-$11,000 a year according to AAA. In Ohio, 40 percent of workers travel outside their home county to go to work which adds to maintenance costs, gas and childcare that ALICE families can’t afford. Low income households try to close the income gap by putting off repairs, not registering their vehicle or not getting car insurance even though it is required by law. By trying to lower car expenses in the short-term, it can have long term consequences such as fines for not having vehicle registration or impounding the car or loss of a driver’s license. Without reliable transportation, it can lead to car breakdowns resulting in missing work and lost wages. Uninsured or under-insured motorists on average add 8 percent to the cost of the average auto insurance premium.
When ALICE families don’t have savings to weather emergencies, they are often forced to seek public assistance. United Way’s role is to bring people together from all sectors of the community to address community issues. We are currently convening groups around education and financial stability to develop strategies to get ALICE beyond survival.
If you would like to learn more or get involved please go to our website www.unitedwaylima.org or call 419-227-6341.
Carol Braden-Clarke is the president of United Way of Greater Lima.