Reports of nationwide economic recovery are at odds with findings from the most recent ALICE Report, released on Monday by the United Way of Northern New Jersey. As cost of living outpaces wages, more than 1.2 million New Jersey households find themselves unable to afford such basic necessities as housing, transportation, taxes, healthcare, and food.
The United Way calls this group ALICE–Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Though technically above the federal poverty line, these households don’t earn enough to make ends meet in New Jersey’s low-wage/high-cost economy.
While the number of households falling below the poverty threshold of $24,300 for a family of four decreased slightly between 2014 and 2016, the number of ALICE households grew from 37% of all New Jersey households to 38.5%. With the costs of healthcare (up 99%), transportation (up 25%), and childcare (up 14%) rising and most jobs paying less than $20 per hour, ALICE households can be found in every county throughout New Jersey. Cumberland and Essex Counties, both of which are served by the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, have the highest percentage of households at or below the ALICE threshold–61% and 51%, respectively. Morris and Union Counties, also served by the FoodBank, were among those with the largest increases (25% or more) in the number of struggling families.
“I thank the United Way for helping to shine a spotlight on the ongoing hardship that many New Jerseyans are facing,” said Carlos M. Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “Looking around the state, you may not realize who is experiencing hunger, but the truth is it’s our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers. Hunger is a problem that hides in the shadows as hard-working families are unable to keep up with increasing costs, and sadly, the number only appears to be growing. This is an urgent issue that requires coordinated action from nonprofit, government and private sector partners to find solutions and help those in need.”
ALICE households span all ages, races, and ethnicities, with members working in a variety of professions, from teachers to waiters to home health aids. Though they come from diverse backgrounds, these New Jerseyans share a common struggle to make ends meet–a daily reality for more than one-third of the state’s households.