By Nancy Lindman, Director of Public Policy & Partnerships, Michigan Association of United Ways

What if I if I eliminated all the extras from my budget – how much money would I need to live in Ingham County?  Before meeting ALICE, I really didn’t know what it would cost for just the very basics: food, transportation, housing, childcare and medical.  And while I was aware of Michigan’s poverty and unemployment rates, I was clueless about how many employed people in my community still did not make enough to cover the basics.

Now I know.  United Way’s ALICE Project has the facts on people making more than the official poverty level, but less than an individual or family needs to cover essential household expenses. What I learned from ALICE startled me – forty percent of Michiganders earn too little to cover basic necessities!

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE represents those among us who are working yet struggle to afford the basics. ALICE is someone you meet every day. She/he is someone you depend on to care for your kids, fix your car and tend to your elderly relative. Despite working, often at more than one job, ALICE households struggle financially – and their kids, your neighbors and our community will pay the price in the long run.

The conditions that put forty percent of Michigan’s families into the ALICE demographic is our focus at United Way. We believe everyone deserves opportunities to have a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income for a family to be financially stable, and good health.

Our hope is that the ALICE report ignites an informed conversation about the need for long-lasting changes. By shedding light on ALICE, we want to understand the magnitude of financial hardship on local, county and state levels and mobilize the caring power of people in public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop solutions.

Now that I’ve met her, I feel committed to helping ALICE.  I know that her fate and mine are intertwined.  ALICE opened my eyes – I invite you to read the Report, available here.