Franklin County’s economic strength is linked to its residents’ financial stability, including ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), and research from a new report issued by United for ALICE shows cause for concern, especially as pandemic-related assistance programs conclude.
According to the report, which provides data for the entire state of Ohio and each of the state’s 88 counties, there has been a 4% increase in ALICE households in Franklin County from 2019 (194,757) to 2021 (201,848), which equates to 24% of the county’s population. These households need assistance to meet the minimum cost to live and work in the modern economy, which includes housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, a smartphone plan and taxes. Across the state, ALICE households make up 38% of the population.
“The data is clear. The cost of basic needs is quickly outpacing wages, making it impossible for people who work in many of Ohio’s most common occupations to make ends meet, let alone emerge out of financial hardship,” said Lisa Courtice, president and CEO of United Way of Central Ohio.
Of Ohio’s 20 most common occupations in 2021, 70% earn less than $20 an hour. While many jobs saw a wage increase, with a median of 13% to $16.37 an hour in 2021, this increase didn’t make up for stagnated wages during the previous decade. In addition, while the pandemic brought employment shifts, health struggles and school/business closures in 2021, it also spurred unprecedented public assistance through pandemic relief measures. As funding expires, ALICE households will feel the impact.
Populations particularly affected by expiring public assistance include families with children and older adults (65 and over). In Franklin County, 18% of families with children are impoverished, and an additional 15% are ALICE. Of adults over age 65, 10% are impoverished, and an additional 39% are ALICE. That’s a third of families and half of adults over age 65 in all of Franklin County.
“The Federal Poverty Line (FPL) is an inaccurate measure of need. ALICE accurately calculates the road to financial independence, and more than a third of Ohioans are in financial crisis,” said Courtice. “We must institute practices and policies to improve access to affordable housing, high-quality child care and education, healthy food, health care, transportation and more. Without it, Franklin County and all of Ohio will fail to thrive.”