ALICE report shows Charlevoix County wages low, cost of living rising

Char-Em United Way (CEUW), in conjunction with The Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW) today released a study on the condition of Michigan’s working families, what it has named ALICE households – those that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

The report found that low-wage jobs continue to dominate the Michigan employment landscape, with a reported 62 percent of jobs in the state paying less than $20 per hour, and more than two-thirds of those paying less than $15 per hour.

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At the same time, the average household budget in the state increased by 18 percent, compared to the national rate of inflation of 14 percent during the same time period.

“Char-Em United Way is proud to be shining a light on the magnitude of ALICE – a complex challenge that no single organization can solve,” said Lorraine Manary, CEO, Char-Em United Way. “We are bringing disparate partners together to help address conditions that will give households a chance to move above the ALICE threshold. Understanding that childcare is one of the biggest challenges to young families, we continue to focus our concentration there. Supporting ALICE in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties now, and building a solid base for our future. ”

The report found that of Charlevoix County’s 10,794 households, 12 percent lived in poverty in 2015 and another 27 percent were below the ALICE threshold, earning below the average family’s cost of basic needs.

In Emmet County the 13,948 households fair a bit better with 11 percent in poverty and another 26 percent below the ALICE threshold.

However, when compared to 2012, the number of struggling households in Emmet County grew by 3 percent, but decreased in Charlevoix County by 2 percent.

The Economic Viability Dashboard which compares housing affordability, job opportunity and community resources, shows improvement in all measures from 2010 – 2015.

“Consumers Energy works to provide solutions to the Michigan residents we serve, and that includes helping our state’s United Ways to identify and respond to the needs of families across the state,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “The new ALICE study illustrates the conditions faced by many individuals and can help guide us and others as we work to serve our communities better.”

Char-Em United Way joins with some 450 United Ways from 15 states across the country to better understand the struggles of ALICE. Various organizations across the country are also using this data to better understand the struggles and needs of their employees, customers and communities.

You can view the full report at

To produce the United Way ALICE Report for Michigan, a national team of researchers collaborated with the Michigan Research Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from across the state, who advised and contributed to the report.

The report focuses on providing objective, comprehensive county-by-county data that identifies the size of the ALICE population in Michigan and works to identify the obstacles that keep these residents from achieving financial independence.

The current report builds on data found in the 2014 ALICE study, showing not only continuity but also highlighting United Way’s commitment to this data.

Char-Em United Way currently works to provide short- and medium-term solutions for ALICE households, such as offering scholarships to access quality child care, free tax preparation and supporting basic needs in emergency situations.

In shedding light on the underlying causes keeping ALICE households from getting ahead, CEUW provides information that will inform discussions with businesses, government agencies, other nonprofits, the faith-based community and residents to create solutions for stronger communities.

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