4 million Texas households can’t afford basic needs, report finds

State & Regional

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — More than four million, or 42 percent, of Texas households couldn’t afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation and technology in 2016, according to a new Texas “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” report, released by United Ways of Texas.  

ALICE, or “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” are households that earn more than the federal poverty level (meaning they may not qualify for some help), but less than the basic cost of living in Texas.

The ALICE project started as a pilot program in New Jersey and now includes 18 states. 

Adrianna Cuellar Rojas, president and CEO of United Ways of Texas, said she hopes the report draws attention to Texans who work several jobs, but still struggle to make ends meet since they earn enough to exceed the federal poverty level and can’t qualify for public assistance. 

“They live in the gap,” officials wrote in the ALICE report. “Often, this leaves them one illness or car repair from a financial crisis.”  

“We really hope that this becomes a way that communities can come together and find solutions,” Rojas said. 

The report provides county-level information and tracks what Texas households experienced from 2007 to 2010, then 2016. For a family of four, the cost of basic household needs in 2016 was $52,956 and $19,428 for a single adult.  

“Not surprisingly, the number of households that could not afford basic needs increased by 14 percent during the Recession, but that number then increased by another 17 prevent during the recovery from 2010 to 2016, despite economic improvement,” the report states. “Many families continued to face challenges from low wages, depleted savings and the increasing cost of basic household goods.”  

The cost of daily living adds up. Rojas encourages people who read the report to look at the numbers in terms of everyday impact. Childcare is often a family’s greatest expense, according to the Texas ALICE report. It costs an average of $1,133 per month for two children in licensed and accredited childcare, or $995 for registered home-based care.  

“This is about people working hard, contributing to our economy and still struggling,” she said.  “Workforce employers can focus on strategies that have to do with allowing their employees flexibility to take care of their parents or their kids when they’re sick,” Rojas continued. “There are other ways that communities can come together.”  

Rojas expects United Ways of Texas to stay involved with the ALICE project in the upcoming years. You can read the full Texas ALICE Report here. 

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