Twenty-four percent of Waunakee households faced financial hardship before the pandemic, United Way of Wisconsin (UWWi) reported this week.

The revelation came with the latest ALICE report, released by the organization Monday morning.

The biennial report found that, in 2018, 5 percent of households in the village lived in poverty and 19 percent could be categorized as ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – earning more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living in the county.

Sourcing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, UWWi researchers found that Dane County’s cost of living was approximately 1.2 percent higher than the statewide average that year.

The “household survival budget” ranged from $26,352 for a single adult; $28,644 for a single senior; $40,668 for two adults; $44,568 for two seniors; $67,164 for two adults with school-age children; and $87,396 for two adults with two children in child care.

“The Household Survival Budget reflects the bare minimum cost to live and work in the modern economy,” the report states. “It includes housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology (a smartphone plan), and taxes. It does not include savings for emergencies or future goals like college or retirement.”

UWWi researchers found that since 2007, the cost of living has increased for ALICE households, at nearly twice the national rate of inflation.

“The cost of household essentials (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology) increased faster than the cost of other goods and services,” the report states. “The ALICE Essentials Index, a new tool that measures change over time in the cost of essentials, increased at an average rate of 3.4% annually nationwide over the past decade.”

The official rate of inflation was only 1.8 percent.

The report also highlighted that 60 percent of the state’s workers were paid by the hour, and were less likely than salaried employees to receive benefits such as health insurance and paid time off.

“A large (and growing) number of workers are paid hourly,” the report states. “The majority of hourly jobs in the state paid less than $20 per hour in 2018, making it difficult for many households to make ends meet, even with two workers employed full time.”

Wage increases have been minimal, exacerbating the problem.

“The number of ALICE households in Wisconsin has increased as a result of rising costs and stagnant wages,” the report states. “There are more ALICE households than households in poverty, and the number of ALICE households is increasing at a faster rate.”

Throughout Dane County, 29 percent of households fell below the ALICE threshold. Statewide, the percentage was even higher, at approximately 34 percent.

“Even before COVID19, our ALICE neighbors were working hard to provide for their families,” UWWi Executive Director Charlene Mouille stated in a July 27 press release. “The current crisis is only highlighting that despite this hard work, constant uncertainty and the struggle of financial hardship are the reality faced by more than one in three Wisconsin households.”

The full report is available at www.unitedwaywi.org/ALICE.

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