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Press Release-For Immediate Release



Note: Downloadable state-by-state, and county-by-county data on the scope of household financial instability in 2016 across the region is available with the links and passwords below.

          Password: LiveUnitedWA

Longview, WA – May 17, 2018 –NEARLY 28 percent of Washington State households cannot afford a basic monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone. New data released by the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest and the United Way ALICE Project shows that 23 percent of Cowlitz County households live one unexpected expense away from financial distress.

In Cowlitz County, 7,230 households live below the federal poverty level.  Another 9,239 are ALICE families.  ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These households earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but less than what it takes to survive in the modern economy. Families living below nationally assigned poverty thresholds combined with ALICE households make up 41 percent of Cowlitz County’s 40,170 households.

The United Way ALICE Project compares 2016 household costs versus incomes at the county-level in each state.  National averages do not accurately represent the extent of financial struggle in Cowlitz County communities. 

“The ALICE Report update shows that the percentage of people who are ALICE or living in poverty in the Pacific Northwest has increased in the past few years: up to 42 percent in Oregon, 40 percent in Idaho, and 39 percent in Washington,” said Brooke Fisher-Clark, Executive Director of United Way of Cowlitz & Wahkiakum Counties. “The truth is, nobody in these three states should be that surprised. Every day we see people huddled in doorways or living in encampments, and we observe the increase in demand for necessities. Yet what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. As this report shows, there are thousands more who are one unexpected expense away from losing their home, or not being able to pay for heat, for food, or medical bills.”

The term ALICE was coined to shed light on those essential workers often overlooked by other economic indicators and policy discussions. ALICE is our child care workers, home health aides and store clerks – those men and women who work at low-paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency away from poverty.  “These are hard-working, great people trying to take care of themselves or their families who are fighting for stability,” said Fisher-Clark.

The Project is a grassroots movement that seeks to redefine financial hardship in the U.S. by providing comprehensive, unbiased data to help inform policy solutions at all branches of government and in business, academia and nonprofit organizations. Launched by the United Way of Northern New Jersey at the start of the Great Recession, the research is being embraced by United Ways in 18 states, with more expected to join next year. United Ways and partners are using the data to develop policies, allocate resources and address community needs.

“Despite seemingly positive economic signs, the ALICE data shows that financial hardship is still a pervasive problem.” said Project Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., who leads the data analysis.

“This research dispels long-standing myths about financial instability by showing that ALICE families exist in every community and among all ages, races and ethnicities,” Hoopes added.


Additional data highlights revealed by the research include:

  • More than 41 percent of households in Cowlitz County cannot afford a basic survival budget.


  • From 2010 to 2016 the cost of basic household expenses for a family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) has risen an average of 28 percent statewide. The nationwide inflation rate over that period was 9 percent.


  • Although unemployment rates are falling, ALICE workers are still struggling. Low-wage jobs dominate the landscape, with 50 percent of all jobs in Washington State paying less than $20 per hour, while an increase in contract jobs and on-demand jobs has created less stability. Gaps in wages persist and vary based on the type of employer as well as the gender, education, race, and ethnicity of workers.


About the United Way ALICE Project

The United Way ALICE Project is a collaboration of United Ways in Connecticut, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Project has developed standardized measurements that provide a comprehensive look at financial hardship across the U.S. With this data, Project members work to stimulate a fresh, nonpartisan dialogue across the country about the importance and fragility of working families living paycheck to paycheck.


For more information, contact:


Brooke Fisher-Clark