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Forty Percent of Michigan Households Struggle to Meet Basic Needs

GRAPHIC: A new report shines a light on how many people in the state are struggling, with 1.5 million Michiganders either below the poverty line or struggling to make ends meet. Image courtesy of the Michigan Association of United Ways.
GRAPHIC: A new report shines a light on how many people in the state are struggling, with 1.5 million Michiganders either below the poverty line or struggling to make ends meet. Image courtesy of the Michigan Association of United Ways.
September 9, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - Though they might technically be escaping poverty, a large group of Michiganders is continually struggling to make ends meet, according to a new study of financial hardship in the state called the ALICE project.

An acronym, ALICE stands for "Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed." Scott Dzurka, president and CEO of the Michigan Association of United Ways, which commissioned the report, says it's also a way to put a name to the hard-working men and women across the state who are barely able to pay their bills each month.

"ALICE could be the person that helped me repair my car last week," says Dzurka. "ALICE could be the person who greeted us when we walked into a small business. ALICE could be the person we got a cup of coffee from earlier today."

Roughly 16 percent of Michigan's population is currently at or below the federal poverty level, but ALICE identified an additional 24 percent of households in the state with incomes insufficient to regularly meet basic needs.

Dzurka notes most of those identified in the report are working individuals, including many recent college graduates unable to live on their own, and young families strapped with expenses.

"These are your basic needs," he says. "This is your housing, this is your utilities, this is your food, this is your childcare."

The report breaks down the numbers on a county-by-county basis. Dzurka says he hopes ALICE will be an important starting point for communities to take a closer look at their infrastructure and better understand how to help the ALICE population.

With six more states set to release ALICE reports this fall, Dzurka adds he hopes it will become a tool for dialogue at the state and national levels.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI