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The Barry County United Way and the Michigan Association of United Ways are releasing the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) study on the condition of Michigan’s working families, according to a United Way news release.



The report found that ALICE households now make up 37 percent of Barry County and 43 percent of all Michigan households, with low wages, reduced work hours and depleted savings among the challenges facing working families.


Despite overall improvement in employment and gains in median income, 8,747 Barry County households could not afford the basic needs of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and technology.


The cost of the average Michigan family budget increased by 27 percent from 2010 to 2017, despite a low rate of inflation nationwide of 12 percent during the same time.

“Here in Barry County we know all too well the challenges ALICE families face,” said Lani Forbes, executive director of the Barry County United Way.

“It’s critical that community organizations, business leaders and policymakers work in tandem to help Michigan’s hardworking families overcome the obstacles to make ends meet. The ALICE Report is an important step toward paving a path forward for our state.”


Although unemployment rates are falling, the report found that low-wage jobs dominate the employment landscape, with 61 percent of all jobs in Michigan paying less than $20 an hour.

At the same time, an increase in contract jobs and on-demand jobs is leading to less financial stability. For the many households that earned slightly above the ALICE threshold in the past, increases in the cost of living and flat wages have pushed them below the threshold and into financial hardship.


The ALICE report released two years ago led Barry Community Foundation and Barry County United Way to partner to create the Family Economic Support Office.


United Way staff works to help individuals and families to achieve financial independence by empowering them with the tools and skills necessary to maximize their income, build their savings and gain or increase their assets.


Today, United Way staff is on-site at four local employers in order to meet with employees, giving them the opportunity to access social services and be connected to local resources without missing valuable work time. 

Staff is also on-site at the Office of Community Corrections to connect those community members to resources as they search for housing and/or employment.//


“While a family of four may be able to survive on $52,000, they are still one tiny emergency away from financial crisis,” said Courtney Ziny, success coach in the Family Economic Support Office.

“The car breaks down…an unexpected illness…repairs to their home.  Households struggling to survive are not equipped with savings to recover from these emergencies. 


“Our goal should not be for Barry County families to be merely surviving – we want everyone to have the financial stability needed to create a strong local economy,” Ziny concluded.



While working families are struggling, over the past two years, five of Barry County’s 16 townships actually lowered the number of households they have living below the survival budget.

“There is absolutely no shortage of opportunity here in Barry County,” Barry County Chamber of Commerce President Travis Alden said.


“In fact, there may not be a better time for community members to find opportunity within employers for advancement.”  Employers are investing in training and education in order for employees to move into the higher paying positions, he said.


These opportunities for career advancements will help families move out from below the ALICE threshold.  Wages in Barry County are on the rise, particularly in the manufacturing field due to the current competition for talent being driven by the low unemployment rate.

That makes partnerships with MI Works and programs like Gilmore Garage Works, the Culinary Arts and KAMA so important as our next generation moves forward.


“Nobody working more than 40 hours a week should be struggling to take care of themselves and their families,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said.  She said she has proposed a budget that will double the Earned Income Tax Credit and repeal the Retirement Tax, saving families hundreds of dollars a year, and making the biggest investment in K-12 education in a generation of kids. I’m eager to work with my partners in the legislature to pass a budget that will help lift Michigan families out of poverty and ensure everyone has a path to a good-paying job.”


In Michigan, the Consumers Energy Foundation granted $25,000 to fund the study. “At Consumers Energy, we are committed to helping Michigan succeed. The ALICE Report is important because it provides policymakers, community leaders and businesses with detailed data to shape good decisions that serve the people of our state,” said Brandon Hofmeister, president of the Consumers Energy Foundation.


The Michigan Association of United Ways joins with roughly 450 United Ways from 15 states across the country to better understand the struggles of ALICE. Organizations across the country are using the data to better understand the needs of their employees, customers and communities. To produce the United Way ALICE Report for Michigan, a national team of researchers collaborated with the Michigan Research Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from across the state, which advised and contributed to the report.


The report focuses on providing objective, comprehensive county-by-county data that identifies the size of the ALICE population in Michigan and works to identify the obstacles that keep these residents from achieving financial independence.


The current report builds on data found in the 2017 ALICE study, showing not only continuity but also highlighting United Way’s commitment to this data.


United Ways currently work to provide some short- and medium-term solutions for ALICE households, such as offering scholarships to access quality child care, free tax preparation and financial and career mentoring.


In shedding light on the underlying causes keeping ALICE households from getting ahead, MAUW provides information that will inform discussions with businesses, government agencies, other nonprofits, the faith-based community and residents to create solutions for a stronger Michigan.


About the Michigan Association of United Ways:
The MAUW is a partner in developing powerful responses to current and emerging issues in local communities. The state association provides leadership in policy influence and capacity building to affect positive change. MAUW serves approximately 60 local United Ways that represent the largest network of non-governmental service providers and service funders in Michigan, collectively raising and distributing significant resources to support local health and human service organizations.







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