United Way’s 2020 ALICE Report for New York State has been released and shows that even before COVID-19 hit, 41% of households in Ulster County were one emergency away from financial distress. The report, which is based on 2018 data, shows that ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families live in every community in NYS (and across the country) and have great difficulty providing their families with financial stability and economic opportunity. Determining the ALICE population is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn just above the Federal Poverty Level (which is $26,200 for a family of four), but barely enough to meet the basic needs of a “survival” budget that includes housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and basic technology. When funds run short, ALICE families are forced to make impossible choices between buying food or paying the rent… filling a prescription or fixing a car.  

For a family of four, including two adults and two school-aged children, the Ulster County Survival Budget is calculated at $68,376 or a combined hourly wage of $34.19 (or $17.08 per adult). For a family of four with two in child care, the survival budget skyrockets to $86,328 or a combined hourly wage of $43.16 (or $21.58 per adult). 
The survival budget includes no savings, and no expenses for entertainment or eating out. “It really is a pretty bare-bones budget when you take a close look at it,” said Stacey Rein, President and CEO of the United Way of Ulster County. “Housing for two adults and two school-age children is calculated at $1,155/month, and technology at $75/month. And the food cost is calculated using the lowest level recommended by the USDA (United States Department and Agriculture),” she said.  

The fact that the number of low-wage jobs has increased by 33% between 2007 and 2018 and accounted for the largest number of jobs in New York in 2018 is a primary driver for ALICE families. 
“The number of low-wage jobs increased by 33% from 2007-2018, and accounted for the largest number of jobs in New York in 2018.”
What kind of jobs do ALICE families hold? They are retail salespersons, home health aides, waiters and waitresses, customer service representatives, security guards, and other low-wage workers we interact with every day.  
Additionally, 78% of female-headed households in Ulster County are ALICE; 82% of households in Ulster County where the primary resident is under 25 years old are ALICE; and 68% of Black households in Ulster County are ALICE.

Considering the federal poverty level for a family of four is $26,200, and the basic survival budget for that same family ranges from $68,376-$86,328, it's not a surprise that so many families are struggling, not just in Ulster County, or even New York State, but across the country.  

In the weeks and months ahead, United Way of Ulster County will be sharing stories of ALICE in Ulster County with you, so keep on the lookout for those. 
For more information:

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We believe that it is the right of every individual in Ulster County to have programs and services available to help them achieve their greatest potential.