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Working Poor: ALICE report paints grim reality for Louisiana families

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:26 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - United Ways across Louisiana have released their bi-annual ALICE report assessing poverty levels for families. ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed, or people who are working but also poor. ALICE documents for every parish in the state what’s the bare minimum survival budget for that parish.

“We have a whole lot of people in Central Louisiana who are working, they’re working hard. Sometimes more than one job. They’re just not making enough to get by,” David Britt, President, CEO of United Way Central Louisiana, said.

Britt says the problem is the formula for the federal poverty level has not changed now in many years and it’s out of date. For example, the poverty level for a single adult is $12,000 a year but because the cost of living has increased. He says it should be about $19,000 a year.

He also says the number of people who fall under the ALICE category is growing.

“The ALICE group is actually increasing. As more people fall out of the area above the ALICE threshold, down into the ALICE area and they’re still working,” Britt said. " These are hard-working people.”

In Central Louisiana, in seven of the eight parishes the United Way serves, more than half of the population is below the ALICE threshold.

Britt explains poverty data for Central Louisiana parishes.
Britt explains poverty data for Central Louisiana parishes.(Source: Javonti Thomas)

“The cost of living continues to rise and wages and salaries just aren’t keeping pace. That is the core issue,” Britt said.

The data also broke down information by parish.

“Rapides Parish went from 47% to 49% under the ALICE threshold. So we’re still, that’s barely less than half,” Britt said. “But next time we do this in two years is getting awfully close to that 50% mark.”

Britt says some of the solutions are economic development and education.

“Economic development is important to attract more jobs and income into the area, education such as CLTCC, strong neighborhood project. It’s important now more than ever for neighbors to know each other and take care of each other.”

Britt would also like to see this problem addressed on several different levels.

“This is a problem we need to address as a society both at the state level as well as the federal level. We can do things as neighbors to help people. Agencies are available to provide resources and build stronger relationships with people.”

Unfortunately, Britt says we’re headed in the wrong direction and coupling that with the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on families.

“The economic situation that accompanied it (the pandemic) certainly isn’t going to help the ALICE situation as people lost jobs, even if they’re losing them for a short time.”

The next ALICE report will be released in 2022.

Copyright 2020 KALB. All rights reserved.

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