Press Release: Survey of ALICE Project Households, Those Living Below A Sustainable Increasable Income While Being Employed Full-Time


Editor’s Note: ALICE Families are defined on a state-by-state basis, which makes for a more accurate picture of the cost of living expenses versus income, adjusted by area.  The Federal Poverty Level is a nationwide number.  In addition to the issues they faced prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, the pandemic has worsened the situation in some instances.  Many ALICE families, or workers within those families, were considered “essential workers” as defined during the pandemic, and thus many of them remained employed during that time last year.  Employment categories such as Home Health Aide,  nurses, nurses assistants, would be some examples.  A video interview with the interim CEO of the United Way of New York, which explores this topic in greater detail,  is coming in the next couple of weeks.  

If your family is struggling due to the pandemic, or you are struggling to make ends meet, the easiest way to find help is to call 2-1-1 from any phone.  This will put you in touch with the United Way’s resource center.

Contact: Brenda Episcopo; [email protected]; 518-608-6456

ALBANY (NY) – Even before COVID-19 hit, 45% of New York households were already one emergency away from financial ruin, setting the stage for an unprecedented statewide economic crisis for the next several years, according to the state’s latest ALICE® Report, released today by the United Way of New York State.

ALICE Households made up 45% of the population.  Image Credit - United Way New York page

ALICE Households made up 45% of the population before the pandemic. Image Credit – United Way New York page

ALICE® stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but less than they need to afford a basic survival budget. There is no room in their household budgets for emergency expenses.

The 2020 ALICE report shows New York’s low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability as the cost of essentials outpaced wages. Meanwhile, the number of jobs that provide a living wage did not keep pace with the state’s population. The result was that 3.2 million of New York’s 7.37 million households were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a record number even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ALICE Household Percentage in Staten Island.  Image Credit - <a href="">United Way tool</a> q

ALICE Household Percentage in Staten Island. Image Credit – United Way tool

The report calls for stakeholders across all sectors to use its findings to remove obstacles to financial stability, identify gaps in community resources and build data-driven solutions to help ALICE families achieve economic stability, bolstering the state’s economy overall.

“The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is showing critical areas of need for our economy, health care system, and education capacity during a national crisis. No one is immune to its direct or indirect effects, but ALICE families are particularly vulnerable to hardship from both illness and economic disruption.” Said Brenda Episcopo, President and CEO of United Way of New York State.

“The 2020 ALICE ®NY Report provides a reliable baseline of ALICE households to best direct resources. This report shows that ALICE households did not recover from the last economic recession, even though the economy improved. We can use this information to ensure we don’t leave ALICE behind again as we recover from the current economic and health crisis.”

The most recent ALICE report shows that over the last few years, New York’s economy has rebounded and the state has made investments to assist those living in poverty. However, there is still a large number of New Yorkers who lack sufficient income and resources to pay for housing, food, child care, transportation, and health care. The report continues to show that ALICE lives in every part of the state, from our biggest cities to our most rural areas.

Using data from the census and a number of economic studies produced in 2018, The 2020 New York ALICE report shows that:

  • Between 2007 and 2018, the percent of households in poverty in New York remained stable, increasing from 13 percent in 2007 to 14 percent in 2018. At the same time, the percentage of ALICE households increased at a faster rate from 23 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2018.
  • To meet the ALICE threshold for survival, a 4-person household (two adults, two children in care) needs an annual income of $78,156 or $39.08 per hour.
  • An individual needs an annual income of $27,312 or $13.66 per hour, to meet the household survival budget.
  • Economic data show that the number of low-wage jobs increased by 33% from 2007 to 2018 and accounted for the largest number of jobs in New York in 2018.
  • All but one of New York’s 62 counties has 30 percent or more households earning less than what is needed to afford a basic household budget.

“The spread of COVID-19 is impacting all of us in all of our communities,” said Ruth Mahoney, Capital Region president and regional retail leader, KeyBank. “Already struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic, ALICE families are particularly vulnerable to the economic struggle that will follow the COVID-19 response. This year’s ALICE report shines a light on the challenges facing New York’s income constrained families, and it is our hope the report can inform conversations about how can we can collaboratively open doors for more people to achieve financial stability.”

The report debuts a new measurement called the ALICE Essentials Index. This Index chronicles how the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan rose at nearly twice the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that, through no fault of their own, ALICE families have been priced out of economic stability, setting the stage for the scope of this crisis,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Using the Consumer Price Index alone to measure inflation provides an incomplete picture of the cost of living, severely underestimating the mounting financial pressures on ALICE families.”

“This report shows how vulnerable so many households in New York are, and with the current crisis, it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association of NY State) President Mary E. Sullivan. “It underscores the need to keep fighting for a living wage for all workers, and to ensure we have adequate public services, like those that CSEA members provide, to help meet the needs of families who are struggling.”

“At NBT Bank, we value our relationships with United Way chapters across our footprint in New York and beyond, and the critical support they provide to promoting financial stability in our communities,” said NBT Bank President and CEO John H. Watt, Jr. “We are proud to have played a role in making the 2020 ALICE report possible and hope the information it provides will help drive positive change for ALICE families, particularly in light of the deep economic impacts associated with the current pandemic.”

To read a copy of the report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of ALICE as well as the community conditions and costs faced by ALICE households, visit[insert state name in link].

The ALICE Report for New York was sponsored in part by Key Bank; CSEA, AFSCME Local 1000, AFL-CIO; NBT Bank and 34 Local United Ways and is a project of United For ALICE, a grassroots movement of some 650 United Ways in 21 states, corporations and foundations, all using the same methodology to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide county-by-county and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit

For contact information for your local UW, click here.

About United Way of New York State
United Way of New York State is a statewide membership organization, with a mission of strengthening the capacity of Local United Ways in New York State to be leaders in achieving results that improve the lives of all New Yorkers.  Of 42 Local United Ways in New York, 36 of them are members of United Way of New York State.  Our member United Ways raised $152.6 million dollars in 2018, to invest in community efforts.  For more information visit

211 New York is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Way of New York State.  211 is a free information and referral resource that links people in need of assistance with resources available in their local communities.  In 2018, 2-1-1 received 1.74 million phone calls, 21.3 million web visits and 24,734 text-based contacts.   211 New York is experiencing 2.5X call volume in response to COVID-19. For more information, visit

About United For ALICE
United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face and finding collaborative solutions. Through a standardized methodology that assesses the cost of living in every county, this project provides a comprehensive measure of financial hardship across the U.S. Equipped with this data, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and innovate in their local communities to highlight the issues faced by ALICE households and to generate solutions that promote financial stability. The grassroots movement represents United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit:


Brenda Episcopo

Passionate and mission-driven executive leader elevating nonprofit agencies and shaping organizations to success. Former CEO of the United Way Of New York.

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