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United Way report examines the working poor

Amanda Simmons

United Ways throughout Louisiana have come together to give an identity and voice to people who work hard yet still struggle to make ends meet.

They’re called ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  A new report shows that 42 percent of all Louisiana families are ALICE or live below the ALICE threshold. This means that 42 percent of all Louisiana families are not earning enough to “get by” based on a Household Survival Budget that uses conservative estimates of monthly expenses for housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and taxes.

These ALICE families are working hard, but are one small emergency away from a major financial crisis.

“You may not realize it, but you already know ALICE,” said Sarah Berthelot, LAUW President and CEO. “We see ALICE every day – hard workers who keep Louisiana’s economy running, but who aren’t always sure that they can put food on their own tables. We find ALICEs each day working behind cash registers, fixing our cars, serving us in restaurants and retail stores, and caring for our young and our elderly.”

ALICE lives in every parish in Louisiana. In Northwest Louisiana, the trend is actually higher than the state average at 45 percent of households struggling – 23 percent are ALICE and 22 percent live in poverty.  This translates to 114,912 households.

Lynn Stevens, Chief Operating Officer of the United Way of Northwest Louisiana, said the statistics in Bossier Parish are lower than the state average. Bossier stands at 31 percent – 17 percent are ALICE and 14 percent live in poverty.  This translates to 14,592 households in Bossier Parish.

Louisiana United Ways are working to better understand the challenges so many face and to identify solutions that make it easier for ALICE to become more financially secure. The United Way of Northwest Louisiana funds 93 programs that help children, adults and families thrive.

Residents in Northwest Louisiana have saved more than $1.6 million on prescription medications through United Way’s partnership with FamilyWize, a discount prescription drug program available to any family in the community. 

The United Way of Northwest Louisiana has partnered with FamilyWize to distribute free prescription discount cards to everyone in Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Desoto, Sabine, Natchitoches, Red River, and Winn Parishes.

According to their website, there are no age or income restrictions, no limit on how many times a person can use it and no waiting to get a card. The United Way of Northwest Louisiana office has cards available.  Visit www.FamilyWize.org to print a card, look up drug prices, and get a list of participating pharmacies.

Over 3,600 individuals have achieved financial stability through the Bank On Initiative. Bank On Northwest Louisiana is a regional initiative to help the unbanked and underbanked residents of Caddo, Bossier, Bienville, Webster, and Claiborne parish to achieve and maintain financial stability.

Bank On NWLA offers affordable low-to-no cost checking accounts and all accounts offer a “second chance” to those who may have messed up their account in the past. It also provides resources for credit counseling, homeownership, money management skills and more.

The Louisiana United Way ALICE Report can be viewed or downloaded at www.launitedway.org or www.unitedwaynwla.org.

“The Louisiana United Way ALICE Report provides high-quality, research-based information to foster a better understanding of those struggling in our communities,” Stevens added. “This report equips communities and our organization with information to create innovative solutions for the future.”

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