United Ways across Ohio recently released the results of an in-depth study, the ALICE report, on a previously poorly understood demographic—hardworking Ohioans who earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. ALICE households (ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) typically have no savings, live paycheck to paycheck, and are just one serious illness or major car repair away from financial instability. They may work as home health aides, at fast food restaurants, or other low-paying jobs. ALICE families can be found in every Ohio county, not just in our urban centers or the most rural corners of the state.
Here in Medina County, one of the most affluent counties in the state, 20% of households fit the ALICE demographic, while another 8% are living at or below the federal poverty level. In other words, 18,695 Medina County households are not able to meet all their basic needs. A family of four—2 adults, an infant, and a preschooler—living in Medina County would need an annual income of $65,328 to afford just the basics of food, transportation, housing, child care, and taxes, the ALICE study found.
For these families, the struggle is more than just financial. Research confirms that the academic success of children suffers due to inadequate food, housing instability, and parents too stressed to provide support. The health and well-being of these families often fares worse than that of their peers. According to the Living Well Medina County Community Needs Assessment 2017, 28% of households making less than $25,000 per year reported having fair/poor health compared to only 8% of households making more than $25,000. Households struggling with poverty face myriad challenges, but with the right support, their lives can improve.
In 2015, United Way of Medina County created the Employing Medina County (EMC) program to help struggling households attain stability through employment. EMC clients, called members, are assigned a life coach who works one-on-one to set goals and help navigate the network of social services and educational opportunities available. Members also attend workshops that cover topics such as resume writing, interviewing skills, budgeting, and financial decision-making, among other topics. Once employment is secured, EMC’s life coaches continue to offer support. They help qualified families receive childcare vouchers, transportation assistance, and work-appropriate clothing, for example. Since EMC’s inception, 76% of program members are employed and on a career path to self-sufficiency, 36% are in some kind of post-secondary schooling or training, and 122 members have successfully completed the workshop curriculum.
Financial instability remains an issue for many families, and United Way of Medina County is committed to providing the support needed to help households achieve a brighter future. If you would like more information on how to support the EMC program, please contact Debbie Boehmke at 330-725-3926.
Link to Living Well Medina County http://www.unitedwaymedina.org/sites/unitedwaymedina.org/files/MedinaCountyNeedsAssessment_2017.PDF
Link to Medina County ALICE study http://ouw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Medina.pdf