Almost one out of every four Pennsylvania households — including those in Crawford County — earn more than the federal poverty level but still don't have enough to pay for basic essentials such as housing, food, transportation and child care, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Way of Pennsylvania.

The ALICE report, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is an initiative of the Pennsylvania network of United Ways. The report is designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by working families.

ALICE households are working households with workers vital to Pennsylvania's economy — such as retail, laborers, customer service representatives and office workers, according to the report. The core issue is the jobs don't pay enough to afford the basics of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

There are 1.2 million out of 5 million households, or 24 percent, at that level. When the number of households living below the federal poverty level are added, the result is 1.8 million, or 36 percent, of all Pennsylvania households are struggling to survive.

In Crawford County, 23 percent of the 36,050 households earn more than the federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county. When those households living below the federal poverty level are added, the figure climbs to 38 percent of the county's households are struggling to survive.

The figures are even more dire for Crawford County's larger communities:

• In Meadville, 52 percent of the city's 5,376 total households don't earn enough to cover the basic cost of living.

• In Titusville, it's 54 percent of that city's 2,273 total households.

• In Vernon Township, it's 39 percent of its 2,406 total households.

• In West Mead Township, it's 34 percent of its 2,077 total households.

• In Sadsbury Township, it's 28 percent of its 1,348 total households.

To create long-lasting community change, the underlying causes of the most significant local issues ALICE residents face have to be addressed, according to United Way officials.

Terri Wig, chief professional officer of the United Way of the Titusville Region, called ALICE residents the keystone of Pennsylvania's economy.

"All Pennsylvanians lean on ALICE for support on a daily basis," Wig said. "Now that we are aware of the struggles ALICE faces, we must come together to help ALICE take steps toward lasting financial stability."

Marisa Lines, chief professional officer of the United Way of Western Crawford County, said the agency is working with its programs to do what is best for county residents.

The agency is working with Crawford Central, Conneaut and PENNCREST school districts, the Crawford County K-12 Career Education Alliance and others to show students about educational needs and workforce opportunities. 

The report defines the cost of a bare-minimum household budget for each county in the state. Referred to as the survival budget, it isn't sustainable but is a more realistic measure than the federal poverty level.

For Crawford County, the report sets the survival annual budget at $28,092 for a married couple and $45,708 for a couple and two school-age children.

Any Pennsylvanian who is not earning enough to afford the survival budget is ALICE. Approximately 13,700 of Crawford County’s 36,050 households fall below the ALICE survival budget and do not meet these income requirements.

Even those who earn more than the cost of the household survival budget are at risk, according to the report.

The ALICE stability budget is a representation of a sustainable family budget in the modern economy, with a few extras and a 10-percent savings commitment every month. For Crawford County, a household stability budget is $48,228 a year for a married couple with no children and $78,756 a year for a married couple with two school-age children.

The national inflation rate from 2007-17 was 22 percent, but the cost of the bare-minimum family budget increased by 33 percent, the report said. During that 10-year period, Pennsylvanians' median income increased by 20 percent.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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