November 7, 2023
Groundbreaking Study Reveals that 42% of Households in Kennebec County Struggled to Afford Basics in 2021
ALICE Report details size and scope of financial hardship in Kennebec County
Kennebec County, ME – There were 22,830 Kennebec County households unable to afford the county’s high cost of living in 2021, according to the ALICE Report released today by United Ways of Maine. The Report was released in partnership with United For ALICE, a U.S. research organization driving innovation, research, and action to improve life across the country for people in financial hardship.
ALICE in Maine: A Study of Financial Hardship places a spotlight on a large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The Report is the most comprehensive depiction of financial need in the state to date, using the latest data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census. The Report unveils new measures, based on 2021 income levels and expenses, that quantify how many in Maine’s workforce are struggling financially, and why.
In 2021, a total of 16,230 Kennebec County households fell into what United Way calls the ALICE population. These are households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. This number was more than double the poverty rate, which accounted for 6,600 households in Kennebec County. Combined, ALICE households and households in poverty fell below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival and accounted for 42% of all households in Kennebec County.
“We all know ALICE,” said United Way of Kennebec Valley's president and CEO Courtney Yeager. “ALICE is the recent college graduate unable to afford to live on their own, the young family strapped by child care costs and the mid-career professional now underemployed. These folks are vital to our state’s future economic well-being, and they face barriers beyond their control – hindering their ability to become financially stable.”
The Report is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in more than half the United States, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.
“This Report provides the objective data that explains why so many residents are struggling to survive and the challenges they face in attempting to make ends meet,” said the Report’s lead researcher, United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Until now, the true picture of need in local communities and states has been understated and obscured by misleading averages and outdated poverty statistics.”
The ALICE Report reveals:
- Households below the ALICE Threshold span all races, ages and genders. Yet for certain groups, the struggle is disproportionate. For example, 59% of Black and 44% of Hispanic households in Maine were below the ALICE Threshold in 2021, compared to 41% of white households.
- Because wages had stagnated for a decade, 34% of the state’s 17,820 retail sales workers lived below the ALICE Threshold in 2021.
- Nearly all of Maine’s 16 counties – 13 – had 40% or more households unable to make ends meet in 2021. The average income needed to survive in Maine depends on local conditions and ranged from $64,444 to $80,760 annually for a family of four, more than double the official U.S. poverty level.
- Even with the variety of temporary pandemic supports available, in 2021, a family of four with two-full time workers earning salaries as a retail salesperson and a cashier – two of the most common occupations in Maine – fell short of affording their basic expenses by $12,688.
- The cost of household basics are much higher than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) suggests. The ALICE Household Survival Budget (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology, plus taxes) for a family of four in Kennebec County in 2021 was $64,944, well above the FPL at $26,500.
- In 2019, 19,484 households in Kennebec County were below the ALICE Threshold; in 2021, this number changed to 22,830 (17% increase).
"It's staggering to note that from 2019 to 2021, Kennebec County had a 17% increase in households below the ALICE Threshold — and that was the second highest increase of all Maine counties," Yeager said. “Especially in Kennebec County, when ALICE chooses unlicensed child care or longer commutes or emergency room health care in order to put food on the table, we all suffer the consequences with future costs to our education system, heavier traffic and higher premiums. United Way is committed to provide long-term solutions that will support ALICE and strengthen our communities.”
United Way is focused on providing the foundation in the areas of education, financial stability and health to help improve the lives of both ALICE and those in poverty, for the long-term benefit of the wider community.
The ALICE Report for Maine was funded in part by the John T. Gorman Foundation.
United Way of Kennebec Valley’s Courtney Yeager is available for interviews.
To read the Report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of ALICE as well as the community conditions and costs faced by ALICE households, visit aliceinmaine.org.
About United Way of Kennebec Valley
United Way of Kennebec Valley (UWKV) unites people and resources to improve lives in our community. UWKV works to build strong, healthy communities; give kids an equal chance; and break the cycle of poverty — creating a thriving Kennebec County for every person in our community. For more information, visit: uwkv.org.
About United Ways of Maine
United Ways of Maine’s mission is to improve lives and create lasting positive change across Maine, by supporting a strong network of local United Ways. There are seven United Ways of Maine (UWME), each independently incorporated, and each governed by local volunteers. UWME partners with individuals, schools, nonprofit organizations, government policymakers, businesses, financial institutions, voluntary neighborhood associations, community development corporations, and the faith community. We have a keen appreciation for the uniqueness of each community in Maine and do not waver in our respect for the local nature and independent governance of each United Way.
For more information, visit: unitedwaysofmaine.org.
About United For ALICE
United For ALICE is a U.S. research organization driving innovation, research and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners convene, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at local, state and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 28 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.
Categories: News | Tags: | Posted by: Mboyer
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