IOWA — Governor Reynolds says the unemployment rate in Iowa dropped to 2.7 percent in May. Yet, a new ALICE report from United Way reveals more than 457 thousand Iowa households struggle to meet basic costs of living. ALICE stands for “Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.” The report shines a light on a large population with low-paying jobs, have little or no savings, and are one emergency away from falling into poverty.
“Part of it is wages are low, part of it is that we have lots of jobs that are not full time with benefits. So, they are struggling to piece all those parts of a budget on their own without full time hours,” United Ways of Iowa Executive Director Deann Cook said.
ALICE in Iowa has shifted since the first report in 2016 which showed 31 percent of Iowa households struggled financially, in two years that number has gone up to 37 percent of Iowa households. United Ways says the biggest shift is due to the increased cost of childcare, for many family’s childcare is the biggest portion of their budget, even more than housing.
United Way says these individuals are generally working ‘maintainer’ jobs.
“These folks are doing all the jobs that we need done every day; they are making our coffee, they are making our lunch, they’re cleaning hotel rooms, they’re taking care of seniors, they’re taking care of kids in childcare. They’re doing all the jobs that our communities need us to have done every day,” Cook said.
United Ways uses the report to develop programming to help move people towards financial stability. They also hope the report breaks down the myth that just because you are working, you are fine.
“ALICE is not in the rooms where a lot of discussions are held about these issues so part of it is just changing the perspective that you work and you’re fine, that’s not always true. So, a big part of that is just shifting how you view issues and speaking about them and having conversations and talking about how we might help,” Cook said.
To view the full report, click here.