COVID-19 Hit as Record Number of ALICE Families Were Priced Out of Survival

ALICE Report: A crisis in the making with an 87% increase in Oregon’s ALICE households over 10 years, fueled by high-priced basics and wages that aren’t keeping pace with growing costs.

To read a copy of 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 www.UnitedForALICE.org/Oregon

 

When COVID-19 hit, just over 517,000 Oregon households were already one emergency away from financial ruin — a 10-year record high — setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis, according to the state’s latest ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, released today by United Ways of the Pacific Northwest, in partnership with United For ALICE.

 

According to the report, ALICE households in Oregon rose by 87% over the last decade. Low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the cost of essentials rose faster than wages.

 

“In Central Oregon, more than 38% of households were living on the edge before COVID-19. That’s more than 37,000 of our 97,000 households,” said United Way of Deschutes County’s Director of Development & Marketing, Diana Fischetti. “Our economy had become increasingly reliant on the very families most financially vulnerable. These ALICE families are facing the greatest health and financial risks today. Many don’t have health insurance, paid sick days, and have children who receive daily meals through school.”

 

In 2018, of Oregon’s 1.6 million households, just over 517,000 were ALICE, a record number that were unable to afford the basics for survival, despite working. In addition, another almost 200,000 families were in poverty.

 

While wages for ALICE workers remained basically stagnant over the last decade, the cost of six essentials grew 3.4% annually on average, compared to an inflation rate of 1.8%.

 

As a result, ALICE households grew to account for 32% of Oregon’s households in 2018, up from 19% in 2007. Poverty levels ranged from 13% of all households in 2007, to a high of 16% in 2012, ending at 12% in 2018. The report shows ALICE households were locked out of the boom economy and unable to establish savings due to meager pay raises and inconsistent job hours, schedules, and benefits.

 

“Regardless of how much or how hard ALICE families worked, the cost of the basics kept growing faster than their wages,” said Fischetti. “The state of emergency created by COVID-19 pushed these already fragile ALICE households into an even deeper financial hold.”

 

ALICE in Oregon: A Financial Hardship Study shows that in 2018, the cost of survival ranged annually from $25,380 for a single adult, to $28,632 for a senior citizen and $75,768 for a family of four with an infant and a preschooler. Putting this in perspective, the median hourly wage for a retail salesperson, the most common occupation in Oregon, was $12.74, or $25,480 per year — barely enough to support the single adult budget, and not enough for the senior or family budgets.

 

The report’s new ALICE Essentials Index reveals this mismatch between wages and the cost of basics. This Index shows how the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The result is that in 2018, two parents working full time needed to earn $18.94 an hour in order to afford the Household Survival Budget for a family of four. That’s up from a wage of $12.13 an hour affording that budget in 2007. During the same period, the number of low-wage jobs grew by a substantial 150%, accounting for the largest number of jobs in Oregon by 2018.

 

“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that, through no fault of their own, ALICE families have been priced out of economic stability, setting the stage for the scope of this crisis,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Using the Consumer Price Index alone to measure inflation provides an incomplete picture of the cost of living, severely underestimating the mounting financial pressures on ALICE families.”

 

Fischetti said, “we will be acting on the report’s findings immediately and using the information to address the unique challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on Central Oregon ALICE families and business.”

 

The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.

 

The ALICE Report for Oregon was funded in part by AVISTA, The Ford Family Foundation, Idaho Community Foundation, Idaho Nonprofit Center, Providence Health Care, WaFdBank, & WSECU; and is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of some 650 United Ways in 21 states, corporations and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

 

For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit www.UnitedForALICE.org/Oregon.

 

 

About United Way of Deschutes County

United Way of Deschutes County fights for the health, education, financial stability, and resilience of EVERY person in our Central Oregon community and is leading the TRACEs movement. With a deep and longstanding familiarity of local agencies serving Central Oregon’s most vulnerable, our United Way is a clearinghouse for donations and best-equipped to meet new and ongoing community needs formed by COVID-19 – now and in the future. As a convener, the organization brings together community leaders, government, other funders, nonprofits, and stakeholders, to collaborate and coordinate efforts to effectively address our most complicated social issues. To learn more or make a donation, go to: www.deschutesunitedway.org.

 

 

About United Ways of the Pacific Northwest

United Ways of the Pacific Northwest (UWPNW) is the regional trade association for 27 local United Ways in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. United Ways in the Pacific Northwest are committed to improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good in the areas of education, income and health. Our mission is to advance the common good throughout the Pacific Northwest by enhancing the individual and collective ability of member United Ways to impact their communities and collaborate on regional and statewide issues.

 

 

About United For ALICE

United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face and finding collaborative solutions. Through a standardized methodology that assesses the cost of living in every county, this project provides a comprehensive measure of financial hardship across the U.S. Equipped with this data, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and innovate in their local communities to highlight the issues faced by ALICE households and to generate solutions that promote financial stability. The grassroots movement represents United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: UnitedForALICE.org.