In these dark days of our worsening pandemic, the impact is still greatest on the families living at the margins in our prosperous community and nation.
The working poor families of Frederick County are those likely to be the most affected by COVID-19, whether directly by illness or indirectly in the severe damage to the economy, by being laid off, furloughed or having their work hours reduced.
This week, the United Way of Frederick County has begun a campaign aimed at helping these families afford basic necessities and keep their heads above water.
Our neighbors who are living below the threshold of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) are the folks most in need right now, Ken Oldham, United Way president and CEO, told News-Post reporter Ryan Marshall. ALICE families often do not qualify for direct government aid, even though they may be close to margins.
The new campaign, called United in Recovery, is once again turning to us, the people of Frederick County, to help those in dire need. Frederick is a generous community, as we have noted many times over the years. We are a compassionate, sharing people, thankfully.
This campaign will help provide those families with training and resources necessary to build their savings, buy a car or afford a home, Oldham told our reporter.
Those households need help to be able to survive and plan for the future, Oldham said.
The United Way looks at the ALICE level in two related ways.
“The ALICE Threshold is what the ALICE research team used to draw a line in the amount of income a household makes to be considered below or above ALICE in Frederick County,” Malcolm Furgol, the director of community impacts and grants for United Way, explained in an email. “The ALICE threshold for senior households is $60,000 and for non-senior households it is $75,000.”
He added that: “The ALICE Survival Budget on the other hand is the specific household budget for a family depending on the number and age of people in that household.”
The most recent ALICE report, released in October, said that 37 percent of the 95,903 households in Frederick County are living below that benchmark, though the median income in Frederick County rose substantially between 2016 and 2018. Since 2008, it has increased from $89,800 per year to $95,850.
The report also said that an individual is below the ALICE Survival Budget line if they make less than $47,268 per year. For a family of four (two adults, an infant and a preschooler), the income standard is $109,176, marking the first time an ALICE budget had exceeded $100,000 for that size family.
The United in Recovery campaign is focusing its work particularly on two goals that are critical to lifting families out of poverty: homeownership and owning a vehicle, Oldham said.
Many parts of Frederick County, including critical job corridors, are not served by public transportation, he noted, so people without cars have a hard time getting to jobs.
Meanwhile, home ownership is probably a family’s most important asset.
“We know that owning a home is the difference for many of our ALICE households for moving out of the ALICE situation,” Oldham said. With the help of the United Way, those folks will have a better chance of moving up and staying up.
We encourage everyone in this community to support the United in Recovery campaign. When those most in need succeed, we all succeed. It is a Frederick County tradition. For more information, go to UnitedWayFrederick.org.