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Study: 35 percent of Marylanders can't afford the basic necessities

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Posted at 3:40 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 15:40:59-05

More than a third of Marylanders—nearly 750,000 households—can’t afford the basic necessities, according to a 2014 report released by the United Way ALICE Project.

ALICE is an acronym that stands for individuals and families who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The report says while these residents earn a living above the federal poverty line, they struggle to maintain the basic costs of living in Maryland.

Laborers, food industry workers and administrative assistants, for example, earn a living wage yet “face barriers beyond their control that limit their ability to become financially stable and self-sufficient,” the study said.

In Maryland, a family of four requires a yearly budget of $61,224, which includes expenses such as food, childcare, housing, healthcare and transportation. The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,850.

For a single adult, the federal poverty lines is $11,670, yet an annual budget of $23,568 is required to meet basic needs, according to the study.

"In central Maryland alone, 36 percent of households are at or below the ALICE Threshold," Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland said in a news release. "This report brings to light the many challenges ALICE faces, gives a face to our neighbors in need and underscores the need for the development and expansion of health and human services and the policies that support them."

The ALICE survival budgets do not leave room for unexpected expenses, meaning a major car repair or medical emergency often means making difficult decisions to forego healthcare, healthy food or car insurance. 

The report also found that low wage jobs dominate the state's economy. More than 53 percent of jobs pay less than $20 per hour, with most paying between $10 and $15 per hour, or $30,000 per year at $15 per hour.

"This report strongly supports United Way of Central Maryland's vision to provide the building blocks for long-term self-sufficiencyhousing, employment, health and educationfor those in need throughout our region," said Baker. "But we can't do it alone. We need the help of our supporters and volunteers to help us put more Maryland families on the path to stability."

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