Harrisburg, Pa. – Before COVID-19 hit, almost 1.4 million Pennsylvania households were already one emergency away from financial ruin — a 10-year record high — setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis, according to the latest ALICE® report, released today by United Way of Pennsylvania.
ALICE, 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 support ALICE along their journey to financial stability.
The updated data within ALICE in Pennsylvania: A Financial Hardship Study shows that over the last decade, Pennsylvania’s low- and middle- income working families lost buying power as increases to the costs of essentials such as housing and healthcare outpaced wage increases.
This caused the number of ALICE households to rise 35 percent by 2018, as ALICE households grew to account for 27 percent of Pennsylvania households in 2018, up from 21 percent in 2007.
Impoverished households remained largely flat during that same time period, about 13 percent of all PA households.
In Lycoming County, almost 45,000 households or 24% are considered ALICE households. This number is unchanged from the 2016 data. Households below the Federal poverty line accounted for 14% of all households.
“Some workers from families we call ALICE have been the heroes of this pandemic, helping to keep grocery stores stocked, caring for children in child care, and providing home health support for the elderly or people with disabilities,” said Ron Frick, President of Lycoming County United Way.
“Other ALICE workers, like some who work in the restaurant and hospitality industry, experienced the emergency that tipped the household budget from just scraping by to being unable to pay their bills,” Frick continued.
“Unfortunately, ALICE families are still facing the greatest health and financial risks today, because they are often the workers who don’t have health insurance, have no paid sick days, and may work in high-risk occupations but be unable to access the vaccine,” said Frick.
In order to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted all Pennsylvania households, United Way also conducted a statewide survey in August 2020 which found that ALICE households were more concerned about how to afford housing and related costs like utilities than they were about contracting COVID-19.
ALICE households only had one month or less of savings to cover necessities, versus the rest of Pennsylvania households who had two months or more.
Frick said, “Our United Way is committed to working with government, nonprofit and business partners to help support ALICE families who often don’t qualify for publicly-funded services, and we are joining with organizations across the state to support policy which will help ALICE families as they build back from the pandemic.”
The Pennsylvania United Way network is recommending a state Earned Income Tax Credit which will help put earnings back in the pockets of working families who will invest those funds in the local economy. United Way also supports programs that provide utility and rental or mortgage assistance to families who have fallen behind due to loss of income from COVID-19, and emphasizes the importance of high quality infant and toddler care which will help ALICE parents get back to work.
The full report, an executive summary of the COVID-19 statewide economic data, an interactive map, the ALICE experience, and more are available at www.uwp.org/alice.