The editorial tells the story of the 40% of New Jersey households that live on the edge of true poverty. “If you think of New Jersey as a neighborhood with 10 houses, you can look out your front window and see financial hardship in four of them. These households may not be classified as impoverished, but they struggle to afford basic necessities such as housing, child care, food, transportation, technology (cell phones, internet) and taxes.”
New Jersey is the wealthiest state in the United States. But even in such a rich state, “In New Jersey, 10.5 percent of our households are classified as poverty homes, but another 28 percent are known as ALICE households – that’s the United Way acronym for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” which means they cannot cover essentials.”
These essentials that a household needs to survive are:
miscellaneous expenses and
And this problem exists in all 21 of New Jersey’s counties which include urban, suburban and rural areas.
The United Way released its ALICE report last week. “Despite all the economic gains we have made since the great recession — with unemployment plummeting, and with the wealthy doing better than ever — that population of New Jerseyans with bare-minimum household budgets climbed 15 percent between 2010 and 2016.”
This problem exists against the backdrop in New Jersey of “A governor who campaigned on raising the minimum wage and a Legislature that had declared it a priority ever since the previous governor vetoed the last wage hike.”
It is important to remember that the health of New Jersey relies on an economy that works for everyone. Many of us depend on workers who earn very low salaries to help us get to work by caring for our children, serve our meals at local restaurants and clean our homes.
“This ALICE report is not about 1.2 million New Jerseyans; it’s about all of us. As Brandon McKoy of New Jersey Policy Perspective put it, “It shows that 38 percent of our population cannot be active participants in our economy.”
Advocates concerned about how to address this growing wealth gap in New Jersey can support Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex)’s minimum wage bill and his desire to subsidize transportation for low-income workers and increase enrollment in low-cost health insurance programs.