ALICE Report Presents Sobering Look At How Some Families Cope Financially

It says these families make too much to quality for assistance.


Frederick, Md (KM). This may sound shocking to a lot of people, but Frederick is the single most expensive community to live in, according to the ALICE report presented last week by the local United Way to the County Council. “Not Montgomery County; not Prince George’s County; not the city of Baltimore; right here in Frederick County,” says Ken Oldam, the President and CEO of the United Way of Frederick County. “Largely because we have a limited tax base and large geographical area.”

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The report was developed by the Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration and describes the large population of residents who are employed, but have no savings. They earn more than what’s classified as the poverty level, but their incomes barely cover the necessities such as housing, food, health care and transportation.

The ALICE report also establishes an income threshold based on a Household Survival Budget, which sets aside money to meet basic needs in each county. In Frederick County, the report says it would cost $75,732 per month for a family of four with two kids in child care to afford the necessities such as  housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, miscellaneous (not luxuries, like a night on the town, taking the family to a movie) and taxes.

According to the ALICE report, one out of three  people in Maryland–743,738–survive at or below the ALICE threshold. In Frederick County, it’s 32%. The report says in Montgomery County, considered to be an expensive place to live, it’s 27%; Howard County is 22%; Carroll County, it’s 28%; and in Washington County, it’s 42%, Since 2007, the number of ALICE households in Maryland  has increased by 29%.

Most of this is due, according to the report, to too many jobs in Maryland which pay less than $20.00 per hour, and do not keep pace with the cost of living. Some of those jobs listed in the ALICE report include waiters, cashiers, retail salespersons, security guards, office clerks, janitors and cleaners, customer service representatives, registered nurses, elementary school teachers and accountants and auditors.

In addition, the ALICE report says many jobs are not located near affordable  housing. There is public and private assistance and it does help, but it does not provide financial stability.

Despite the difficulties these families face, they make too much to qualify for government assistance programs. “There’s a large of group of people who are in that category who do not qualify for services, but definitely need it, according to this budget,” says Malcolm Fuirgol, Director of Community Impact for United Way.

He also says many of these families have no savings or investments to fall back on. “The budget has no room for any savings in this budget, as high as it is. There’s no investing in the future or building toward future wealth either through home purchasing or savings for education, or savings for themselves or their children,” Furgol says.

And deciding where to spend the money the receive is a balancing act, Furgol says. “I think sometimes there’s an impression that those who are at the lower income don’t agonize and struggle over these high level choices. But there’s lot of high level choices you’re making everyday to make that survival budget work. Just one mistake on that budget and you/’re not going to be able to pay for food for your kids,” he says.

The report also says there’s good availability of  jobs and community resources in Frederick County, but poor availability of  affordable housing.

Recommendations in the report call for the County Council to support initiatives to meet the need for affordable housing, increase access to transportation, enhance support for public education, additional child care and address adverse childhood experiences.

Overall for Maryland, the ALICE report calls for supporting access to good employers, attracting higher skilled and higher paying jobs and strengthening infrastructure.


By Kevin McManus