Report: 25 Percent of Clarion County Households Struggling to Survive
(Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)
United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP), along with statewide and regional partners, recently released a report indicating that 1.2 million Pennsylvania households earn more than the federal poverty level but still not enough to pay for essentials such as housing, food, transportation, and child care.
When the number of households that live below the federal poverty level is added, the result is 1.8 million, or 37 percent, of Pennsylvania households are struggling to survive.
The ALICE® report, which stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed, is an initiative of the Pennsylvania network of United Ways to raise awareness of the challenges faced by working families and to mobilize organizations and individuals who want to support strategies and policies that move ALICE along their journey to financial stability.
“United Ways in Pennsylvania are committed to understanding the communities we serve. For us to create long-lasting community change, we need to address the underlying causes of the most significant local issues that ALICE faces,” said Kristen Rotz, president of UWP.
“ALICE is the keystone of the Pennsylvania economy. ALICE represents a large portion of the purchasing power of Pennsylvania households. All Pennsylvanians lean on ALICE for support on a daily basis. Now that we are aware of the struggles ALICE faces, we must come together to help ALICE take steps toward lasting financial stability.”
UWP’s report defines the cost of a bare-minimum household budget for each county in the state. Referred to as the survival budget, it is not sustainable, but is a more realistic measure than the federal poverty level.
Any Pennsylvanian who is not earning enough to afford the survival budget is ALICE®. Even those who earn more than the cost of the household survival budget are at risk, and the ALICE stability budget is a representation of a sustainable family budget in the modern economy, with a few extras and a 10-percent savings commitment every month.
Additional data highlights revealed by the research include:
- Seventy-five percent of Pennsylvania’s 2,408 county subdivisions, with available data, have more than 30 percent of households living at an income below the ALICE survival threshold.
- Twenty-five Percent of Clarion County households are living at an income below the ALICE survival threshold.
- Only three of Pennsylvania’s top 20 largest-employing occupations pay enough to support the average Pennsylvania family’s household survival budget.
- In order for a household consisting of two adults and two school-age children to afford basic housing their annual income would have to be $46,654. However, nearly 4,000 of Clarion County’s 15,925 households fall below the ALICE survival budget and do not meet these income requirements.
- The national inflation rate from 2007-2017 was 22 percent, but the cost of the bare-minimum family budget increased by 33 percent, and the bare minimum single adult budget by 26 percent over that same time period. During that 10-year period, Pennsylvanians’ median income increased by only 20 percent.
“ALICE is a lot of hard-working Pennsylvanians who are essential to our state’s economy. ALICE can be a child care worker, nursing assistant, office worker or retail associate. Our communities would not thrive without the contributions of ALICE,” Rotz noted.
Locally, United Way of Clarion County (UWCC) has plans to use the ALICE report to fine-tune the work they are already doing and help plan for the future.
“Several years ago we started targeting our programs toward working families and individuals,” said Melissa Fulton, executive director of UWCC.
“We were seeing people who never asked for any sort of assistance before, who have been self-sufficient and able to support their family. All of the sudden an illness, an unexpected lay-off, a major car repair or a broken furnace and they quickly find themselves burning through what little savings they had just to keep up with their bills.”
“The ALICE report is a tool,” continued Fulton. “It gives us the information we need to find solutions to very real problems that many of our neighbors are experiencing, 25% in fact, with an additional 13% at or below poverty in Clarion County. These numbers and information will guide us on how to invest in programs that are helping ALICE households build a safety net and end the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.”
Fulmer explained that PA 2-1-1 is a tool that directs Clarion County residents to different programs that they can apply for help.
“Eight months ago, UWCC launched PA 2-1-1 with help from the Clarion County Commissioners. It is a great resource in Clarion County, especially for ALICE households who may not be familiar with the service organizations or where to turn for help. Anyone can dial 2-1-1 from any phone and get connected to a live Navigator who can help direct them to the agency or organizations that is best suited to help them,” Fulton added.
The full report, an interactive map, the ALICE experience, and more are available at www.uwp.org/alice.
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