Let's Talk ALICE

Person walking through the rain. Word overlay saying "ALICE in the crosscurrents. COVID and financial hardship in Idaho."

What is ALICE?

ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) is a metric used to measure the amount of individuals and families who are employed yet unable to afford basic necessities. It is an alternative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and takes a more updated approach to calculating a survival budget for the modern-day person, taking into consideration inflation and more recent expenses.

ALICE is the nation’s child care workers, home health aides and cashiers, the essential workers during the pandemic – those working low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and one emergency from poverty. They make more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than what's needed to survive in the modern economy.

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 Pandemic economically impacted tens of thousands of households across the state and the world. 32,284 households in eastern Idaho are now financially insecure. The latest ALICE report shows that pandemic aids temporarily blunted the financial crisis, but warning signs are on the horizon.

Updated Idaho ALICE Report

United for ALICE conducts high-quality research to understand financial hardship across the U.S. The scope goes from as broad as the whole nation and as narrow as individual counties in each of their partner states. They report their findings every two years. The latest report was published in 2023. The data for Idaho shows that for eastern Idaho, 8,026 households are living in poverty and another 24,258 families or households are defined as ALICE. 

Based on the 2023 United for ALICE report released April 26, 2023, data shows 43% of our seven-county service area including, Bonneville, Clark, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, and Teton, equating to 32,284 households are struggling to afford basic needs. 

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The calculation includes the 8,026 households in poverty as well as another 24,258 families or households defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, earning above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what’s needed to survive in the modern economy. ALICE families have been overlooked and undercounted by traditional poverty measures. ALICE is the nation’s child care workers, home health aides and cashiers, the essential workers during the pandemic – those working low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and one emergency from poverty. 

ALICE in the Crosscurrents

COVID and Financial Hardship in Idaho shows that the total number of financially insecure households rose by 9.5% between 2019 and 2021 – more than tripling the 5% increase in the state’s overall population. The number of ALICE households increased by 41,521 during that time. In contrast, there were 1,580 more families in poverty. 

Idaho ranked 34th in financial hardship among all 50 states, with one of the nation’s highest percentages of households struggling to make ends meet in 2021.  

United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County, 2021 Percent Change, 2019-2021
County Households %ALICE + Poverty # of Households #ALICE + Poverty
Bonneville 42,905 38% 8% 4%
Clark 282 52% -3% -11%
Fremont 4,288 42% -1% 4%
Jefferson 9,345 38% 8% 34%
Lemhi 3,361 61% -6% 25%
Madison 11,289 62% 2% 8%
Teton 4,199 36% 13% 29%

 

While job disruptions and inflation delivered significant financial pain, a combination of pandemic supports and rising wages did help to blunt what could have been a deeper financial crisis, the report finds. However, as some benefits are peeled back, and inflation persists, signs of greater financial stress are on the horizon. 

 

“It could have been so much worse for these families, whose struggle to feed their families, afford health care and access quality education was often hidden in plain sight until the pandemic. Equipped with the ALICE name and data, we can do even better to develop effective policies and track our progress toward reducing financial hardship in Idaho. We have an opportunity to build on what was learned during the pandemic as ALICE continues to face economic uncertainty.”

United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County’s CEO, Chris Wiersema.

According to the report, for a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the annual ALICE Household Survival Budget, which is the basic cost needed to live and work in eastern Idaho was $65,052 in 2021. The Child Tax Credit and Child Dependent Care Tax Credit helped to soften the blow, bringing the family Survival Budget down to $50,856. 

ALICE Household Survival Budget, Selected Counties, Idaho, 2021

Monthly Costs and Credits

Single Adult

One Adult, One Child

One Adult, One In Child Care Two Adults Two Adults Two Children

Two Adults, Two In Child Care

Single Senior Two Seniors
Housing - Rent $452 $418 $418 $418 $524 $524 $452 $418
Housing - Utilities $154 $239 $239 $239 $292 $292 $154 $239
Child Care $0 $202 $539 $0 $405 $1,123 $0 $0
Food $467 $791 $711 $856 $1,395 $1,273 $431 $790
Transportation $328 $426 $426 $504 $804 $804 $281 $410
Health Care $169 $499 $499 $499 $848 $848 $497 $993
Technology $75 $75 $75 $110 $110 $110 $75 $110
Miscellaneous $165 $265 $291 $263 $438 $497 $189 $296
Tax Payments $258 $558 $652 $327 $913 $1,133 $346 $741
Tax Credits $0 ($362) ($581) $0 ($724) ($1,183) $0 $0
Monthly Total $2,068 $3,111 $3,269 $3,216 $5,005 $5,421 $2,425 $3,997
ANNUAL TOTAL $24,816 $37,332 $39,228 $38,592 $60,060 $65,052 $29,100 $47,964
Hourly Wage $12.41 $18.67 $19.61 $19.30 $30.03 $32.53 $14.55 $23.98

 

“A positive change during the pandemic was that tax credits, stimulus payments and rental assistance were available for ALICE households and provided strong relief. However, as some of these supports come to an end, growing food insufficiency and other indicators reveal continued stress. Ignoring these warning signs places ALICE, our economy and the well-being of our communities at great risk.”

Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., United For ALICE National Director.

Additional Report Insights

  • Single female-headed households had among the highest rates of hardship. Over 3 quarters – 88% – of eastern Idaho’s single female-headed households could not afford basics in 2021. 

  • In 2021, 65% of the 20 most common jobs in Idaho paid less than $20 per hour. As a result, many of these top jobs still had a substantial percentage of workers who were either ALICE or in poverty in 2021. 

  • Due to the lack of mental health services available to ALICE, 18% of ALICE households are feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge most of the time in the last two weeks when surveyed.