New report demonstrates the financial hardship faced by 51 percent of Louisiana households who struggle to afford the basics
BATON ROUGE (May 25, 2023) —Louisiana Association of United Ways (LAUW) in partnership with United Ways throughout the state, today released a new report demonstrating the financial hardships faced by the more than 900,000 households–51% of all families–can’t afford life’s basic necessities, an increase of 22,980 families.
ALICE in the Crosscurrents COVID and Financial Hardship – the first detailed report since the COVID pandemic but the fifth in the series – details how families both above and below the poverty level made difficult choices due to financial headwinds, despite pandemic and disaster benefits.
The report also shows that one-third (32%) of Louisiana households are ALICE, or Asset Limited,Income Constrained, Employed, a term that describes households earning more than the federally designated poverty level (FPL)l but less than the cost of living in their area.
“The latest ALICE findings are timely as we begin to look beyond the pandemic and disaster eras that all of us Louisianans endured and work to address the most urgent problems facing our communities,” stated Sarah Berthelot, President/CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways. “The economic scars of recent years are evident in the increase of Louisiana working families unable to make basic ends meet and save for unexpected events or retirement. Understanding these persistent challenges for ALICE is a crucial component of our process toward recovery.”
The updated ALICE Household Survival Budget for a working family of four in 2021 was $66,288, well above the FPL of $26,500. Even with tax credits, ALICE would need to earn about $33 an hour to keep up with the household’s expenses, yet 75% of the state’s most common jobs earn less than $20 an hour.
“The cost of living is changing and unfortunately the pay is not. Even though I have improved in my career goals and have the ability to make a better living for myself, it still presents a challenge in today’s economy,” explained Aneecha Bradley, a public school teacher and mother of two from Baton Rouge who qualifies as ALICE based on income.
Every parish was affected by the pandemic and the six federally declared natural disasters since 2020, but competing economic forces, including supply chain disruptions and rising costs, played out differently across demographic groups: Black, young, and single‐parent households were more likely to be ALICE or in poverty, while white, working‐age and married‐parent households were more likely to be financially stable.
“The United Way’s ALICE report has changed how advocates talk about poverty and economic hardship and has played a vital role in showing policymakers how many hard-working families are just one disruption away from disaster,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project.
Findings from the new report show:
Food Insufficiency: Even with emergency food measures in place, 26% of households below the ALICE threshold reported that their household “sometimes or often did not have enough to eat” in November 2022, an increase of 8% over two years and well above the state average (15%). At that same time, 30% of households with children below the threshold reported not having enough food, an increase of 13% since prior reporting in August of 2020. Households below the threshold were most likely to be affected if they included someone with a disability (36%). Households headed by someone Black (24%), female (23% and/or LGBT (24%) were also disproportionately affected.
Struggles with Paying Bills: The rate of families in Louisiana that reported difficulty paying for usual items such as food, rent/mortgage, car payments and medical expenses increased from 55% of households in August 2020 to 64% in November of 2022, more than twice the rate of families above the threshold (31% in November 2022).
Urban Vs Rural: ALICE is more common in rural Louisiana; Fifty-nine percent of rural Louisiana households and 49% of urban households live below the ALICE threshold. In Claiborne and East Caroll parishes, 69% of families live below the ALICE threshold, the highest levels in the state.
Families with Children: The typical family of four brought in $17,000 less than the costs of basic expenses, which increased by 11%. Childcare costs for two children rose to $1,421 monthly and are typically the largest expense in a family’s budget.
Lack of Emergency Savings: Even with pandemic and disaster benefits, only 29% of households below the ALICE threshold had emergency savings equal to three months of expenses to cover a job loss, sickness or another emergency, a reduction from the pre-pandemic levels of 37%. Meanwhile, 17% of those households reported having to pay an emergency medical expense out of pocket because it was not covered by insurance.
Healthcare disparities: Families below the ALICE threshold were more likely to report that they missed, delayed or skipped a child’s preventative check-up (45% vs. 36%). Households below the threshold were also twice as likely to report feeling down, depressed or hopeless (18% vs. 9% in 2022). ALICE Households that included a family member with a disability (38%) or who identify as LGBT (47%) were much more likely to report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, compared to the state average of 19% for all households.
ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Louisiana is the fifth of a series of Louisiana-specific research-based reports released by United Ways across Louisiana since 2016, thanks to the generous support of the Entergy Corporation. The project is a collaboration with the United For ALICE, a grassroots movement in 27 states that provides corporations and foundations with consistent methodology and reporting to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide parish-by-parish and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.
“Entergy has been proud to partner on the ALICE Report with the Louisiana Association of United Ways since the report’s inception in 2016,” said Patty Riddlebarger, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Entergy Corporation. “The report has provided a voice for thousands of struggling households while also serving as an invaluable tool for policymakers and community leaders who are shaping the programs and initiatives that are making a real difference in the lives of ALICE families in our communities. In 2022, the Louisiana Association of United Ways and United Way partners across our state were instrumental in helping Entergy provide more than $4.4 million in utility assistance and VITA support for working families in Louisiana. Entergy is committed to helping ALICE families achieve economic stability. Our support for the ALICE report is an invaluable resource in this work.”
For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit www.UnitedForALICE.org/Louisiana. On May 25, 2023, everyone can view or download a full copy of ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship at https://www.launitedway.org/alice-reports-louisiana