When an event such as Sandy strikes, control is temporarily lost. For many, we can regain that control relatively easily. We file an insurance claim, bunk with family or friends temporarily, or dip into savings for those unexpected expenses. But a new United Way of Northern New Jersey study shows that a far larger percentage of the population, more than we might imagine, can’t. The report details how one in three New Jersey households, even in some of the richest counties, such as Morris, are barely keeping their financial heads above water. These families have few resources to turn to in the event of a “Sandy.” United Way calls these individuals and families ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. One disaster can spiral an ALICE household into chaos.
Noting the fragile nature of ALICE, she writes:
One emergency, one unexpected cost or a natural disaster such as Sandy, will push an ALICE household over the line into poverty. For many thousands of ALICE households (in 2011, 1.1 million New Jersey households were unable to afford basic necessities, falling into the ALICE or poverty populations), Sandy drastically changed their lives. They lost jobs, homes, belongings and that all-important sense of control.
We agree with her closing paragraph that now is the time for action:
As New Jersey works to rebuild from Sandy, we need to make sure our politicians consider the impact of policy decisions on ALICE households, as well as the middle and upper class. That means access to decent housing, affordable child care, better health care, and jobs that offer livable wages. Contact your legislators and ask about ALICE. When an ALICE household needs your assistance, be there to help them stay out of poverty. Concern for all Americans and the ability to control our own lives must be our rallying cry.