United Way of Southern Maine discusses "ALICE"

The Town Council received a presentation from Dan Coyne and Jared Gay of United Way of Southern Maine regarding a population throughout Maine and the country who are considered Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed, “ALICE.”  Coyne said the name is given to, "A population that has existed for decades, but has fallen largely invisible to the system."  ALICE families are unable to afford the basics associated with housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology.  They are employed people who often struggle to keep their own households from financial ruin.

According to Coyne, an increase in the ALICE population has created a national movement to recognize that the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) insufficiently measures/defines which people struggle financially, despite being employed.  Approximately 8% of the Southern Maine population falls under FPL limits and are eligible for many forms of government assistance such as SNAP and MaineCare.  However, according to Coyne, 38% of the households in Southern Maine fall within ALICE parameters and struggle to cover basics despite being employed.  “Households tend to be overwhelmingly young, under the age of 25, but also over the age of 65. And we can see that almost seven in ten households headed by single females happen to be Alice.”  Within Cape Elizabeth in 2022, 929 households fall under ALICE.

Coyne showed a slide of a “Household Survival Budget” in Southern Maine which indicated that for a family of four adults with two children in child care, the household would need a minimum of $95,460 to meet the essentials of household budget.  

Courtesy of United Way of Southern Maine

Gay highlighted some of the programs United Way is providing to help the ALICE population in Southern Maine.  This includes: Offsetting housing utilities through the Keep Me Warm and the Housing Crisis Response Fund; supporting costs associated with child care through Biddeford Ready, which ensures children are ready to enter public kindergarten, and Women United, a giving circle which advocates for single moms.  Financial stability is offered through Ca$h Maine, an initiative that helps anyone with a household income less than $64,000 with tax preparation and filing. Additionally, collaborative programs with Greater Portland Workforce Initiative and Greater Portland Council of Governments.  For constituents with more urgent matter, United Way has partnered with 2-1-1 to offer a 24/7 resource for things such as heating oil and food.

 Councilor Penny Jordan said, “I think the more awareness we can create, the more opportunity we have to solve the problem.”  Chair Timothy Reiniger said he was surprised with the number of Cape Elizabeth households that fall under ALICE and asked, “Any thoughts you have with respect to how we can take action, make any of this information actionable, please let us know.”



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