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New United Way Report Sheds Light on Financial Hardships

FRANKLIN COUNTY – A new report shows 30 percent of Franklin County households are struggling to survive.

Of these, 12,196 are households that earn income above the federal poverty level but are still not making enough to pay for essentials such as housing, food, transportation, and childcare.

The ALICE® report — which stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed — is a United Way initiative to raise awareness of the challenges faced by working families and to mobilize organizations and individuals who want to support strategies and policies that move ALICE along their journey to financial stability.

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The report shows 30 percent of county households are struggling to meet basic needs.

“United Way of Franklin County is committed to understanding the populations we serve,” said Amy Hicks, executive director of United Way of Franklin County.

Creating Change Means Addressing Causes

She said creating long-lasting community change requires addressing underlying causes of the most significant local issues faced by ALICE individuals and households.

Those households and their workers falling within the ALICE guidelines provide vital services to the community and are basically “the backbone of our economy,” she said.

They vital members of the community, people that everyone in Franklin County leans on for support daily — child care workers, nurses, hospitality workers, mechanics, laborers, and retail associates.

The ALICE report defines the cost of a bare-minimum household budget for each county in the state. Referred to as the survival budget, it is a more realistic measure than the federal poverty level, according to Hicks.

Survival Budget vs Poverty Level

“Any Pennsylvanian who is not earning enough to afford the survival budget is ALICE,” she said. ” Even those who earn more than the cost of the household survival budget are at risk.”

The ALICE stability budget is a representation of a sustainable family budget in the modern economy, with a few extras and a 10-percent savings commitment every month.

Additional data highlights revealed by the research include:

  • The Franklin County Household Survival Budget shows a single adult must earn $9.98 hourly wage or $19,968 annually.
  • A household with two adults, one infant, and one preschooler must earn $28.42 hourly wage to meet the survival budget or $56,844 annually.
  • This survival budget reveals that it costs more than double the U.S. poverty rate of $25,750 for a family of four in Franklin County to afford the essentials.
  • Despite working, ALICE and poverty-level households often need assistance to afford the basic necessities. Even with assistance, many of these households are unable to make ends meet.

ALICE and Poverty Is All Around Us

In Franklin County, the municipalities with the highest percentage of ALICE and poverty-level households are Chambersburg Borough (44 percent), Fannett Township (40 percent), Mercersburg Borough (46 percent), Metal Township (40 percent), and Waynesboro Borough (51 percent).

The national inflation rate from 2007-2017 was 22 percent, but the cost of the bare-minimum family budget increased by 33 percent, and the bare minimum single adult budget by 26 percent over that same time period.

During that 10-year period, Pennsylvanians’ median income increased by only 20 percent.

“We all have a vested interest in improving conditions for ALICE, Hicks said. .”When ALICE can’t afford basics, the costs are high both for these households and the greater community.”

She hopes the data from the ALICE report will help everyone better understand the struggles an ALICE individual or family faces.

Solutions Complex, No Silver Bullets

Still, Hicks said solutions are complex, and there are no silver bullets.

“But, through this work, we have come to understand the real needs of individuals and families in Franklin County,” she said.

United Way of Franklin County is currently coordinating community conversations and awareness campaigns to further explore ALICE in the county and start discussions on how to develop solutions to move ALICE along their journey to financial stability.

“Now that we are aware of the struggles ALICE faces, we must come together to help ensure financial stability for ALICE,” Hicks said.

The organization wants to collaborate with local business, government, nonprofit and community members to implement solutions for ALICE. Those interested in getting involved should contact United Way at 717-262-0015.

The full report, fact sheets specific to Franklin County, the ALICE Experience online simulation, and more are available at www.uwfcpa.org/alice.

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