Report sheds new light on economic hardship

The ALICE, asset limited, income constrained, employed, report released by United Way reveals...
The ALICE, asset limited, income constrained, employed, report released by United Way reveals that 57 percent of Northeast Louisiana households struggled to make ends meet before COVID-19.(Makensie Hinkle)
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 6:02 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - 57% Northeast Louisiana’s population is struggling to make ends meet according to a report from the United Way of Northeast Louisiana.

While the COVID-19 outbreak has tightened pocketbooks across the county, the report puts a light on a problem which has been around for years.

“It is a tricky acronym,” United Way of Northeast Louisiana Director Janet Durden said. “Asset limited income constrained employed.”

That acronym refers to households which earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living within an area.

The “ALICE” report shows people in Louisiana are struggling with life’s basic necessities such as food, child care and affordable housing.

The latest report used data captured in 2018, well before COVID-19 became a household name.

It showed 18% of households in the state fell under the federal poverty level, while 33% can be categorized as “ALICE.”

Here in Northeast Louisiana 24% of households fall under the federal poverty level, while 33% are categorized as “ALICE.”

“The information is important because you really begin to understand what our community is facing. We really begin to see how widespread the effect of not having enough income to really survive,” Durden said.

The report also says more than 891 thousand households in Louisiana, slightly more than one-third, were experiencing financial hardship before COVID-19 and are those most likely to face even more financial difficulty because of the pandemic.

“Our first response isn’t a surprise but rather how can we help, so when we see it we lean in,” Hebert says.

She also says there are signs of improvement.

“Two years ago, our percent of poverty was 27%. And I’m pleased to say that number has dropped to 24%. And that’s, that’s really good news for our region,” Durden said.

Durden says the important thing to note is that there is help out there for those who need it.

“People right now are very desperate to get help with their bills. We’ve had several people to just go to our email address. They have been sending in licenses, Social Security cards, their bills, proof of income just to get the help. And it’s actually a process because each person still has to come in the office and fill out paperwork,” Dawson said.

Kema Dawson is the Executive Director of the Ouachita Multi-Purpose Community Action Program said.

Dawson says they receive several calls every day from people reaching out for help.

“We are getting calls from families who are struggling to pay for their child care, we are seeing families who are struggling to pay the rent and some families who are on the verge of homelessness,” Dawson said.

If you need assistance you are urged to reach out to the United Way 211 number. It’s a free telephone service that connects individuals in need to community services in the state of Louisiana.

To view the 2020 Alice Report, CLICK HERE.

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