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.

(2) comments

DickD

Interesting, what level of income is necessary to qualify for ALICE for two people without dependents and how are assets evaluated? What if you are single and have supplemental income, how does that affect your qualification?

malcolmjohn

Dick, thank you very much for your question. The ALICE survival budget for a household of two adult non-seniors in Frederick County is $61,260. Depending on if one or both of the adults are seniors the survival budget could be different than that amount. See https://www.unitedforalice.org/household-budgets/maryland, then select Frederick County from the drop down menu and scroll down to the survival budget chart to see instructions on how to modify the budget to fit the characteristics of a given household. For a single adult the survival budget is $47,268 and would include all sources of income. A reminder that the ALICE threshold, as described in the editorial above, is an income assessment tool that evaluates total household income, including supplemental income, and whether or not a household is above or below it. You can see some information about assets on page 8 of the full Maryland ALICE Report available at https://www.unitedforalice.org/Attachments/AllReports/2020ALICEReport_MD_FINAL.pdf. You can also see assets mentioned on page 20 of the methodology document for the report available at https://www.unitedforalice.org/Attachments/Methodology/2020ALICE_Methodology_FINAL.pdf. In addition, the national ALICE research team is working on ways that assets can be evaluated more directly in future versions of the ALICE Report. Thank you again for your interest in the ALICE Report for Frederick County. -Malcolm Furgol, Director of Community Impact & Grants, United Way of Frederick County

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