The United Way of Southwest Michigan has released its latest report on ALICE households, or those classified as being “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”

ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level and therefore don’t qualify for assistance, and yet still can’t afford the basic cost of living.

The United Way’s Heather Cole tells us the organization nationally tracks ALICE statistics, which are then broken down by the Michigan Association of United Ways, and finally, local chapters. The latest numbers show 25% of Southwest Michigan households fall into the ALICE category, compared to 28% statewide.

Cole says the percentage had been going down before COVID but is back up. COVID is still making things harder on the working class.

I think COVID offered a lot of challenges as far as being able to access goods and services, the cost of things going up,” Cole said. “For a while, there was some significant federal support, some stimulus payments and some tax credits, but now all those have gone away.”

Cole says those in the ALICE category have seen increases in costs related to housing, transportation, and childcare. That’s despite some positives.

While wages in Southwest Michigan have increased in the past couple years, the cost of those things — cost of rent, cost of child care, cost of transportation — all of those things things have gone up even greater.”

For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, the basic costs to live and work in Michigan, excluding tax credits, rose from $73,000 in 2021 to more than $78,000 a year later.

Cole says the United Way of Southwest Michigan uses these statistics to better target its programs to help those who don’t qualify for federal or state assistance. She says support for job training and educational programs could also help the ALICEs get themselves into a better situation.

You can learn more right here.