More and more Frederick County residents are unable to pay for their basic needs, according to a statewide report from the United Way released Wednesday.
More than 35,000 households in the county cannot afford the bare minimum for housing, food, transportation, child care and health care. The data comes from the United Way’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report, which uses data from 2016. In the latest report, 39 percent of the 89,800 households fit the ALICE description, a 5 percentage-point increase from 2014.
Ken Oldham, president of United Way of Frederick County, said wages in the county are not keeping pace with the rising costs of living — specifically housing, child care and transportation.
“One of the primary drivers is the increase in costs overall, but specifically in housing,” Oldham said.
In Frederick County, a single adult must make $35,316 a year, or $17.66 an hour, to cover basic costs and be above the ALICE line. For a single adult with a school-aged child, the number increases to $51,852 a year, or $25.93 an hour. A dual-income home with two children needs to make $84,036 a year, or $42.02 an hour.
The percentage of people living below the ALICE threshold includes those who are also below the poverty line — $12,140 a year for individuals and $25,100 for a family of four.
The average cost of buying a home in the county increased by 4 percent between 2016 and 2017. According to the United Way report, a household with two adults and two children has to pay $1,848 more a year for housing in 2018 than in 2016 — and that is to afford the most basic housing.
The latest report provides insight to the kinds of families who are struggling. Nearly three-quarters of single-mother homes in the county — or 3,293 total households — do not make enough money to cover basic costs. For single-father homes, 55 percent — or 1,636 households — are below the ALICE line. Single-parent households are more at risk to be an ALICE household because they must survive on one income, Oldham said.
“Most married households with children are dual-income households,” he said. “With a dual-income household, you can make less [individually] and still be above the survival threshold.”
A gap in the percentage of each racial group under ALICE exists and, even more troubling, that gap is growing, Oldham said. In 2016, 44 percent of black households and 31 percent of white households were below the ALICE line, a difference of 13 percent. In 2018, the gap has grown to 23 percent. The same divide is growing between Hispanic and white households. In 2016, there were 14 percent more Hispanic households under ALICE than white households. In 2018, that difference is 22 percent.
Across the county, Emmitsburg, Sabillasville, Libertytown and Thurmont had the highest percentages of ALICE households. Urbana and Adamstown has the lowest.
Frederick County is ranked 13th among Maryland’s 24 counties (including Baltimore city) by the lowest percentage of ALICE households.
The release of the ALICE report coincides with the start of the Unity Campaign, a 12-day annual fundraising effort for 31 local nonprofit organizations. United Way is coordinating the effort, which last year raised $447,074. This year’s goal is $475,000.
“The ALICE report has been the impetus in the last two years for the Unity Campaign,” Oldham said. “We’re really justifying the needs for nonprofits in our community through the ALICE report.”