SHREVEPORT, LA (May 25, 2023) — Today, the Louisiana Association of United Ways (LAUW), in partnership with United Ways throughout the state, released a new report demonstrating the financial hardships faced by the more than 900,000 households–51% of all families–who are unable to afford life’s basic necessities, an increase of 22,980 families. Locally, the report reveals that nearly 117,000 households in Northwest Louisiana-56% of all families-are considered ALICE and poverty households.
ALICE in the Crosscurrents COVID and Financial Hardship – the first detailed report since the COVID pandemic but the fifth in the series – details how families both above and below the poverty level made difficult choices due to financial headwinds, despite pandemic and disaster benefits.
The report also shows that one-third (32%) of Louisiana households are ALICE, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, a term that describes households earning more than the federally designated poverty level but less than the cost of living in their area.
“We know that financial instability has a devastating impact on individuals, families, and entire communities,” said LaToria W. Thomas, President/CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana. “The ALICE report provides critical insight into the struggles of working families who are often one emergency away from financial ruin. By shedding light on the economic challenges faced by so many households, this report serves as a call to action for policymakers, community leaders, and all of us to work together to have a community where all individuals and families can thrive.”
To collaboratively improve the lives of ALICE households in Northwest Louisiana, United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA) works with several partners throughout the community to provide free programs and services that aid with financial stability. UWNWLA’s Bank On Northwest Louisiana has helped more than 7,700 unbanked and underbanked individuals achieve financial stability since 2013 by connecting them to safe and affordable bank accounts and financial resources. In partnership with the City of Shreveport, UWNWLA offers one-on-one financial counseling through the Shreveport Financial Empowerment Center (SFEC) to help residents manage their finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products. Since the launch of the program in 2020, the SFEC has helped citizens collectively save more than $825,000 and reduce more than $1.25M in debt. Each year, UWNWLA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides federal and state tax preparation for individuals who make $60,000 or less, have disabilities, and are limited English-speaking taxpayers needing assistance in preparing their tax returns. In 2022, VITA volunteers completed 3,956 returns, and taxpayers saved over $1.08M in preparation fees. United Way’s 211 health & human service hotline has played a vital role in helping connect struggling families to local resources, including financial aid. Since January 2022, 211 has answered 13,226 calls for help, the top three requests being for utility assistance, housing, and food.
“The latest ALICE report shows the potential dangers ahead for ALICE families,” said Rashida Dawson, Vice President of Financial Stability for United Way of Northwest Louisiana. “During the pandemic, various safety net programs throughout the country brought relief to many struggling families throughout that time. Now that those COVID-related programs and benefits have ceased, it makes our families even more vulnerable to an unknown financial environment post-pandemic. Through our financial stability programs, we hope to help alleviate the financial burdens of our residents and help guide them to stability so that they are prepared for future emergencies.”
“The latest ALICE findings are timely as we begin to look beyond the pandemic and disaster eras that all of us Louisianans endured and work to address the most urgent problems facing the people of our communities,” stated Sarah Berthelot, President/CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways. “The economic scars of recent years are evident in the increase of Louisiana working families who are unable to make basic ends meet, in the reduction of emergency savings and retirement assets held by ALICE families and in rising inflation. Understanding these persistent challenges is a crucial component of our process toward recovery.”
The updated ALICE Household Survival Budget for a working family of four in 2021 was $66,288, well above the FPL of $26,500. Even with tax credits, ALICE would need to earn about $33 an hour to keep up with the household’s expenses, yet 75% of the state’s most common jobs earn less than $20 an hour.
Every parish was affected by the pandemic and the six federally declared natural disasters since 2020, but competing economic forces, including supply chain disruptions and rising costs, played out differently across demographic groups: Black, young, and single‐parent households were more likely to be ALICE or in poverty, while white, working‐age and married‐parent households were more likely to be financially stable.
Findings from the new report show:
- Food Insufficiency: Even with emergency food measures in place, 26% of households below the ALICE threshold reported that their household “sometimes or often did not have enough to eat” in November 2022, an increase of 8% over two years and well above the state average (15%). At that same time, 30% of households with children below the threshold reported not having enough food, an increase of 13% since prior reporting in August 2020. Households below the threshold were most likely to be affected if they included someone with a disability (36%). Households headed by someone Black (24%), female (23% and/or LGBT (24%) were also disproportionately affected.
- Struggles with Paying Bills: The rate of families in Louisiana that reported difficulty paying for usual items such as food, rent/mortgage, car payments and medical expenses increased from 55% of households in August 2020 to 64% in November of 2022, more than twice the rate of families above the threshold (31% in November 2022).
- Urban Vs. Rural: ALICE is more common in rural Louisiana; Fifty-nine percent of rural Louisiana households and 49% of urban households live below the ALICE threshold. In Claiborne and East Caroll parishes, 69% of families live below the ALICE threshold, the highest levels in the state.
- Families with Children: The typical family of four brought in $17,000 less than the costs of basic expenses, which increased by 11%. Childcare costs for two children rose to $1,421 monthly and are typically the largest expense in a family’s budget.
- Lack of Emergency Savings: Even with pandemic and disaster benefits, only 29% of households below the ALICE threshold had emergency savings equal to three months of expenses to cover a job loss, sickness or another emergency, a reduction from the pre-pandemic levels of 37%. Meanwhile, 17% of those households reported having to pay an emergency medical expense out of pocket because it was not covered by insurance.
- Healthcare disparities: Families below the ALICE threshold were more likely to report that they missed, delayed or skipped a child’s preventative check-up (45% vs. 36%). Households below the threshold were also twice as likely to report feeling down, depressed or hopeless (18% vs. 9% in 2022). ALICE Households that included a family member with a disability (38%) or who identify as LGBT (47%) were much more likely to report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, compared to the state average of 19% for all households.
ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Louisiana is the fifth of a series of Louisiana-specific research-based reports released by United Ways across Louisiana since 2016, thanks to the generous support of the Entergy Corporation. The project is a collaboration with the United For ALICE, a grassroots movement in 27 states that provides corporations and foundations with consistent methodology and reporting to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide parish-by-parish 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/Louisiana. On May 25, 2023, everyone can view or download a full copy of ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship at https://www.launitedway.org/alice-reports-louisiana
About United Way of Northwest Louisiana
For more than 100 years, United Way of Northwest Louisiana has improved the lives of individuals in our community. The organization fights for health, education, financial stability, and essential needs for everyone while helping those in crisis. United Way of Northwest Louisiana serves agencies throughout a ten-parish region and operates a dozen human service programs of their own. Each United Way organization operates independently of each other and makes decisions by local leaders.
About the Louisiana Association of United Ways
The Louisiana Association of United Ways is an association of eight regional United Ways serving 53 parishes throughout Louisiana. Our mission is to integrate action and resources for the common good. We work across our communities to tackle challenges that affect individuals, families and whole communities — challenges that are ultimately bigger than any of us and impact our entire state. Our association support statewide coordination and development of the Louisiana 211 Statewide Network. We are part of a global network of more than 1,800 United Ways, servicing communities in 41 countries.
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.