United Way Report: Many Pennsylvania families struggle to survive

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The United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP), along with statewide and regional partners, today released a report that shows that 1.2 million Pennsylvania households earn more than the federal poverty level but still not enough to pay for essentials such as housing, food, transportation and child care.

When the number of households that live below the federal poverty level are added, the result is 1.8 million, or 37 percent, of Pennsylvania households are struggling to survive.

The ALICE® report, which stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed, is an initiative of the Pennsylvania network of United Ways 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 ALICEalong their journey to financial stability.

“United Ways in Pennsylvania are committed to understanding the communities we serve. For us to create long-lasting community change, we need to address the underlying causes of the most significant local issues that ALICEfaces,” said Kristen Rotz, president of UWP. “ALICEis the keystone of the Pennsylvania economy. ALICErepresents a large portion of the purchasing power of Pennsylvania households. All Pennsylvanians lean on ALICEfor support on a daily basis. Now that we are aware of the struggles ALICEfaces, we must come together to help ALICEtake steps toward lasting financial stability.”

UWP’s report defines the cost of a bare-minimum household budget for each county in the state. Referred to as the survival budget, it is not sustainable, but is a more realistic measure than the federal poverty level. Any Pennsylvanian who is not earning enough to afford the survival budget is ALICE®. Even those who earn more than the cost of the household survival budget are at risk, and 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.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said the report confirms the need for living wages, more education and job training opportunities, and supportive services in an economy that works for everyone.

“More Pennsylvanians have jobs than ever before, but too many hardworking people are making poverty wages,” said Governor Wolf. “It should be unacceptable to all of us when people are working harder and harder, but still struggling to pay for housing, food, childcare, transportation and other basic needs”

“I applaud the United Way of Pennsylvania for continuing to bring attention to the many people in our community who are working, but low wages and rising costs make it hard for them to keep up. We must act to ensure workers stop falling behind.”

Additional data highlights revealed by the research include:

·        Seventy-five percent of Pennsylvania’s 2,408 county subdivisions, with available data, have more than 30 percent of households living at an income below the ALICEsurvival threshold.

·        Only three of Pennsylvania’s top 20 largest-employing occupations pay enough to support the average Pennsylvania family’s household survival budget.

·        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.

“ALICE is a lot of hard-working Pennsylvanians who are essential to our state’s economy. ALICE can be a child care worker, nursing assistant, office worker or retail associate. Our communities would not thrive without the contributions of ALICE,” Rotz, noted.

The full report, an interactive map, the ALICEexperience, and more are available at www.uwp.org/alice.

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