ALICE Awareness Week Header Image
We divided topics neatly by issue for the sake of daily emails during ALICE Awareness Week but we’re mindful of the fact that each of these issues are related and intertwined. Individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold are faced with one or more or sometimes all of these issues on an ongoing basis.

Our goal this week was to provide you with opportunities for education, reflection and action related to the ALICE Project. We’re acutely aware that we barely began to scratch the surface this week. The issues impacting the lives of individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold are far greater, more complex, longer lasting and farther reaching in their consequences than can be distilled in a daily email. There are also more and different resources in place throughout our community to address these issues than we’ve listed in our emails this week.
Comparisons of different household budgets
The ALICE Report shows us how individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold having to make difficult choices for their household in one area impacts other areas of life. A move to more affordable housing in a different neighborhood makes for a longer commute to work or school. A chance to pick up an extra shift or work a little overtime means more time for the kids in child care. Missing out on opportunities to build a firm educational foundation early on can be detrimental to future earnings and employment.

Here’s a brief summary of additional issues impacting ALICE households and the consequences of insufficient household income with links to more information:

  • Food is the most basic of all needs. A healthy diet builds overall good health and fuels working and learning throughout the day. In the short term, food is the easiest place for a family to skimp on cost, but in the long term, the consequences of a poor diet or food insecurity can include developmental delays in children, compromised performance at school or work, and chronic disease in adults. Read more about food security

  • Healthcare is the hardest item to budget and is both a consequence and a cause of financial instability. Depending on age, illnesses, and overall health, costs vary widely between families. While health insurance has become more available to lower-income families in recent years, there are still many without insurance and even more who cannot access quality, regular health care. Read more about healthcare

  • Technology access has always been a need, but has become an essential for many individuals and families in the midst of the current public health crisis. Working and learning from home requires access to mobile devices and reliable home internet. Without access, ALICE families are disadvantaged in job searches and job performance, school performance, accessing public benefits, and health care. Read more about technology.

The problems facing ALICE households are complicated and interwoven. When we understand better how issues facing individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold are interconnected, community stakeholders can start to build solutions for our neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, and states. For solutions to be most effective, they must be comprehensive and interconnected to address as many areas of struggle as possible.
Financial Stability by Race/Ethnicity, U.S., 2018
Poverty and racism have been connected since this country’s inception, yet official federal statistics have never fully portrayed the economic impact of that link. United For ALICE was founded on the need to more accurately measure and track financial hardship nationwide. Disparity of economic opportunity exists in every community, in every state of the US. The data show that while hardship is pervasive, the history of slavery and its ongoing legacy of systemic and institutional racism impacts Black households uniquely. The ALICE data shows persistent and widening disparities in income and wealth between Black households and households of other races and ethnicities. Read more about Disparities.

One important thing to note is that ALICE is often a hidden population. Indeed, most households that fall below the ALICE threshold based on their income level, don’t self-identify as being a member of the ALICE population. Some households fall below the ALICE threshold due to an unforeseen life event such as a life-altering health diagnosis, job loss, a family crisis such as a death or divorce, or a global viral pandemic. This makes it difficult to identify and address the needs of these vulnerable members of our community and why we together must remain United for ALICE.

United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County strives to make our community a place where all individuals and families have the tools to move from crisis to survival to sustainability. Households below the ALICE threshold usually do not qualify for governmental aid or social service programs. It’s easy to slip between the cracks when there isn’t a safety net in place that’s specifically designed to catch folks from falling through. ALICE households often carry the additional burden of needing to advocate for themselves and seek out and navigate the limited services that exist to help their families move from surviving to thriving.
  • Which issue we talked about this week resonated most with you: housing, child care, education, or transportation? 

  • Could you relate to any of the struggles facing individuals and families in our community living below the ALICE threshold? Either now or growing up?

  • Is there someone in your life or social sphere that you know struggles with these issues? Do they know where to go to get assistance if needed? 
Watch the Harrisonburg City Council Candidates Forum. Last week, the five candidates running for three seats on Harrisonburg City Council participated in a virtual forum. Candidates answered questions related to various issues facing our community, with a focus on housing and transportation. Watch the recording of this live event to learn more about each candidate’s thoughts on affordable housing and improving transportation options in our local area. Watch here.

United Way COVID Impact Survey – United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is partnering with other United Ways across Virginia to gather information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our local communities. The survey is electronic and can be completed on a mobile device or paper copies are available by contacting UWHR. Available in English and Spanish.

Greatest Needs Drive - The Greatest Needs Drive is an effort to gather and distribute items identified as being in highest demand by organizations who serve people in need in our local area. This drive is an opportunity for generous community members to give where it’s needed most. We are seeking volunteers to sign up to champion the collection of items from among your colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, friends or others in your social group. To learn more or sign up, visit Greatest Needs Drive.
Did you learn something? Ready to make a difference for individuals and families living at or below the ALICE threshold in our community?

Click the link to download a how-to document.