Study: Half of Eau Claire households struggle to afford basic necessities

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nearly half of the population of Eau Claire County is struggling to afford basic necessities according to a study released by United Way.

All 72 counties were studied by the United Way of Wisconsin and the 42 local United Ways in the state.

Across Wisconsin the study shows 42% of households are living below the ALICE Threshold.

“ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” explained Executive Director Jan Porath.

Director of Financial Stability Partnerships Jessica Oleson-Bue says in the city of Eau Claire that number is even higher.

“Specifically it's 51%,” explained Oleson-Bue. “Now we can actually see the data and pinpoint locations that are struggling to then come together as a community to figure out what we can do to solve this problem and make our community as strong as possible.”

Those falling below the ALICE Threshold are earning income above the federal poverty level but are still struggling to afford basic needs like healthcare, transportation and food.

Porath added, “I think when we see these numbers we see ALICE every day in our lives and I think it's a big awareness piece and something to keep in mind that way.”

In Eau Claire County job opportunities were rated as fair but housing affordability and community resources both received a poor rating.

Oleson-Bue said, “When we look at the ALICE report and the numbers that have been brought forward in terms of residents that are trying to make ends meet on a basic survival budget, that's really eye-opening.”

Community action agency Western Dairyland says it’s not surprised by the findings.

“This is all of us,” said Executive Director Anna Cardarella. “This is our next door neighbor, this is our child's teacher. This is you and me.”

To combat the problem Cardarella says a multi-system approach is needed.

“It’s important for people who have the means to donate locally to organizations like the United Way and Western Dairyland so that we're able to use the dollars to fill in the gaps of services to try to reach more people.”

The study also found 89% of the Wisconsin households are white with about 44% headed by someone 65 or older.

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