Are You ‘ALICE?’ Report Says 1.3M NJ Households Can’t Afford Basics
For every New Jersey household that's in poverty, there's another or two that earn too much to qualify for most assistance programs but not enough to afford the basics of living, according to a report from United Way of Northern New Jersey.
The nonprofit's report cites 923,791 families defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a gray area that advocates claim is overlooked and underserved.
"We all know ALICE," said CEO Kiran Handa Gaudioiso. "Every week, they find themselves paying their bills ... and not able to pay everything with what their take-home pay is."
Between 2019 and 2021 — a stretch that includes the onset of the COVID emergency — the number of ALICE households in the Garden State increased by nearly 97,000, according to the report.
ALICE represents individuals in low-wage jobs. According to United Way's report, those jobs in New Jersey include cooks, packers, servers, cashiers, and personal care aides, among others.
The report picked up on persistent racial disparities related to financial hardship, with Black and Hispanic households more likely than white households to count as ALICE or below. The report also found that senior citizens had among the highest rates of hardship, with nearly half of senior households not able to afford basics in 2021.
ALICE and poverty
In total, 1.3 million New Jersey households, or 37%, were living under the ALICE threshold (including families in poverty) in 2021, the report finds.
Between 2019 and 2021, when the Garden State increased its population by 6%, the number of households struggling to survive in the modern economy rose by 14%, according to the report.
"A positive change during the pandemic was that tax credits, stimulus payments and rental assistance were available for ALICE households and provided strong relief," said Stephanie Hoopes, national director of United for ALICE. "However, as some of these supports come to an end, growing food insufficiency and other indicators reveal continued stress. Ignoring these warning signs places ALICE, our economy and the well-being of our communities at great risk."
New Jersey ranked 12th in the country for the lowest percentage of households under the ALICE threshold.
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