United Way: 39% of Wapello County households struggle to afford basics


In Iowa, 381,266 households – 31 percent of the state’s total – are unable to afford the state’s cost of living, according to the United Way ALICE Report for Iowa to be released on June 22nd. In Wapello County, 39% of households live below the ALICE Threshold.

ALICE, which stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed, places a spotlight on a large population of hardworking residents who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings, and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. ALICE is a conceptual blending of those who are working and earning, but are not able to afford a basic needs budget in the county in which they live. The United Way ALICE Report is the most comprehensive depiction of financial needs in the state to date, using data from a variety of sources, including the US Census. The report unveils new measures, based on present-day income levels and expenses that show how many Iowa workers are struggling financially, and why.

Blaire Siems, Executive Director and CEO of the United Way of Wapello County says, “ALICE exists in Wapello County. They work and earn but are alarmingly close to financial emergency. One emergency can put these families into poverty. You see these individuals every day. They are cashiers, waitresses and bus drivers. They work hard yet they barely make enough money to afford the basic necessities. This study helps the United Way of Wapello County and United Ways around the country to better understand their needs so that we can advocate for them.”

In Wapello County, 19% of the population live below the Federal Poverty Level. The United Way ALICE Report for Iowa shows that an ADDITIONAL 20% of Wapello County residents are unable to afford life’s basic necessities of housing, transportation, food, health care and child care despite having income above the Federal Poverty Level designation. These are households earning more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less that the very basic cost of living in our community.

Siems states, “The Federal Poverty Level seriously underestimates the number of families struggling to survive in our economy. The United Way of Wapello County provides this report to give our community a tool for understanding who struggles, and why, and it helps to inform our partners, donors and policymakers to invoke conversations and make decisions that will help these families.”

The United Way ALICE Report for Iowa provides high-quality, research-based information to foster a better understanding of our communities. The research was led by Stephanie Hoopes Halpin, Ph.D., United Way ALICE Project National Director. Her staff collaborated with a 13-person Iowa Research Advisory Committee which represented a number of Iowa’s colleges, universities, state departments and nonprofits, who advised and contributed to this report.

Iowa is the eleventh state to complete an ALICE study. This collaborative model, practiced in each state, ensures each United Way ALICE Report presents unbiased data that is replicable, easily updated periodically, and sensitive to local context. Working closely with United Ways, the United Way ALICE Project seeks to equip communities with information to create innovative solutions.

About the United Way of Wapello County

The United Way of Wapello County advances the common good through sustainable, measurable improvements to our communities’ education, income, and health.

United Way of Wapello County envisions thriving communities where residents are educated, have income stability, and lead healthy lives.

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