A collaboration by the Rockefeller Foundation, United Way and Entergy, part of a national effort, produces this not-so-shocking report: A huge number of people don’t make enough money to get by.
People are working, sometimes in multiple jobs, and still hurting.
The groups say that 41 percent of the households in the state — 474,000 accounting for many more people –“are trapped by low wages and rising costs and are unable to afford basic needs.” They are known as ALICE households — Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.
The number that can’t meet basic needs has been growing. (The report doesn’t note, though it could have, that the super-rich are getting even richer, helped in Arkansas by a whopping income tax cut enjoyed almost entirely by the rich.)
Some of the findings:
Across the state, the share of households earning below the ALICE Threshold ranged from 26 percent in Benton County to 64 percent in Lee County. Other findings in the report include:
- The average Household Survival Budget (a calculation created for the ALICE report) for an Arkansas family of four is $46,812 — significantly higher than the federally recognized family poverty level of $24,600. (The Single Household Survival Budget is $18,240, with the FDL set at $12,060.)
- Low-wage jobs continue to dominate the landscape in Arkansas, with more than half (51 percent) of all jobs paying less than $15 per hour.
- In the Household Survival Budget, child care represents an Arkansas family’s greatest expense, at a state average of $761 per month for two children.
- ALICE lives in every county in Arkansas —urban, suburban, and rural — and includes women and men who are single, married, young and old. White households make up the largest demographic — 69% — mirroring Arkansas’ majority-White population. But while there are fewer Black and Hispanic households, they are disproportionately likely to be ALICE.
Entergy, which encounters the struggles of many to pay their electric bill, said it participated in the effort because it can only be as strong as the communities it serves.
I don’t need convincing. Gov. Asa Hutchinson does, however, given his recent miserly budget proposal that acknowledges few needs of schools and safety net programs.
But what do Rockfeller and Entergy say? Well, no specifics:
The ALICE in Arkansas report can provide a basis for policies that help make the Arkansas economy work for everyone. “We need smart decisions and policies that put working families first and benefit the entire state,” says West-Scantlebury. “If Arkansas households earned at least the ALICE survival budget, we’d have $8.4 billion more in taxable wages and $6.9 billion more in consumer spending. Not only is that more money back in your pocket, but it’s more revenue — $2.2. billion to be exact — to invest in small businesses, schools, hospitals, and public transportation.”
Is that an endorsement of a $15/hour minimum wage?