Have you met ALICE?
She’s everywhere these days. So many people know ALICE in some way — they live next door to ALICE, ALICE teaches their children, ALICE attends their church. Maybe you are ALICE, but you just don’t like to talk about it that much.
What do we really know about ALICE? ALICE works hard, but she is barely surviving. ALICE hasn’t had a raise in five years, but her household budget has increased by more than 30% in that time. ALICE has to choose between paying for her electric bill or prescription medicine each month. ALICE needs a new car, but has no savings. ALICE needs help, desperately, but doesn’t qualify for any public assistance. ALICE is being pushed out, squeezed and forgotten by her community.
ALICE is Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and a recently released report by United Ways of Tennessee has exposed shocking truths of how many families are currently living in Tennessee. These households live above – sometimes well above — the federal income poverty level, but still cannot provide the basic necessities for their family, including food, housing, child care, health care and transportation. The ALICE income threshold — the estimated minimum hourly wage needed to survive in Tennessee — is not met by nearly 40% of Tennessee households.
In Williamson County alone, more than 12,000 households are ALICE households. For a family of two parents and two small children to survive in Williamson County, the family must earn $68,888 annually. To put that in perspective, the median household income in Tennessee is $51,340.
For that same family to enjoy relative economic stability in Tennessee (i.e. afford basic necessities while saving 10% of annual income), they must earn $132,096 annually. The median household income of Williamson County is $104,367. These numbers show a stark reality — many, many families in our community are teetering on the edge of serous financial instability.
When we talk about affordable housing, or child care, or medical costs, bear in mind that there are Williamson County families making more than $100,000 that are barely making ends meet. That basic fact — not opinion, fact — shouldn’t be exasperating, it should be infuriating. Their situation was not the result of poor decisions or a lack of ambition, but a constant, relentless increase in living costs while their wages stay hopelessly stagnant. Get a second job? There literally are not enough hours in the day.
On a final note, bear in mind these numbers: the highest paid teachers in Williamson County schools earn slightly over $73,000 annually. A Dec. 2 job posting on the City of Franklin website sought certified police officers. The annual pay? $45,272.
Do you want to know what it’s really like for thousands of families living in Williamson County? Go ask ALICE.
Nicole Sibilski, GPC, is a nationally recognized certified grant writer and fundraising consultant for non profits and businesses. A resident of Franklin, she works extensively in Williamson County to help local agencies increase their revenue and impact in the community.