Thousands of families in Northwest Louisiana do not make enough money to live comfortably despite have one or even two jobs. That’s according to a report by the United Way that’s using data to implement change.
An extensive report commissioned by Rutgers University looks at the specific financial situations of people making above the federal poverty level but below the basic cost of living. It was released more than a year ago, but it’s now being used a way to create programs to help.
Standing for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, the ALICE report studies each parish in the northwest region, the towns and villages and types of households. It shows families spend most of their paychecks on housing and child care next to food and transportation. Nearly 50-percent of households work but are one incident away from financial disaster.
“This study is the most excited thing that I’ve been a part of in my ten years with United Way,” said Bruce Willson, United Way of Northwest Louisiana president and CEO.
Willson said it now gives them the hard data to present to local and state governmental and commercial entities on how to shape their funding decisions.
“All the people who apply to us for grants, they have to tie their grant request to ALICE. We have proprietary programs that nobody else offers and it’s geared to helping ALICE. 211 is our newest one. But we also have Family-Wise which is a prescription assistance program. We have bank on Northwest Louisiana that helps families get a bank account,” Willson said.
The Caddo Parish Commission is using the data as a way to focus parish funds. Such as allotting money to a housing trust fund to encourage affordable living. The commission just voted to move one-million dollars to the E. Edward Jones Housing Trust Fund.
“We have a lot of people who wake up and go to work everyday but they’re spending more and more of their income on their housing. That’s someone who is spending a third, a fourth of their paycheck on housing alone. That’s money they can’t pump back into our economy. So this is an effort to help those families out as well because we don’t want to be seen as a cost burden place to live,” said Steven Jackson, Caddo Commissioner District 3.
Willson said the key is to improving people’s situations lies in workforce development, financial literacy and early education programs.
“We are not interested in the government simply giving more money to people who are ALICE. What we’re interested in doing is as a community how can we come together, how can we give them indignity, learn to improve their situation and make it easier for them,” Willson said.
The United Way will soon refresh this study to compare what programs were most successful.