Report: 44% of Southwest Michigan children are below the ALICE threshold

A new report from United Way of Northwest Michigan shows that nearly half of children in Lower Northwest Michigan live below the ALICE threshold. The report was released as the first part of their new ALICE in Focus 2022 series.

The ALICE threshold represents the minimum level of income necessary for the survival of a household. United Way chief executive Seth Johnson says the numbers are shocking.

“That’s a really impressive number. 26,000, 44%, is a very striking number for the number of children who live in financially challenged households,” says Johnson.

Of that 44%, 11% live below the federal poverty line. 32% earned above the poverty line but did not earn enough to pay for basic needs where they lived. Johnson says the numbers aren’t that shocking.

“When you look at the number of homeless students we have in our school districts. When you look at our free and reduced lunch rates. it’s not really shocking [you] when you start looking at that,” says Johnson.

Gina Aranki, executive director of Northwest Michigan Child and Family Services, said the report is sobering. She says families in our area have had to make tough decisions.

“It may mean that families are making choices between paying rent or buying food or medicine. That they are not able to meet all of their needs. We see these strains on families every day,” says Aranki.

Local nonprofits like Child and Family Services provide mental health services. They also help people get in touch with the services they need. Although help from the community helps, United Way says the problem is very complicated. Kids

“Why is this happening and what can we do about it? Ultimately, there isn’t just one reason why this is happening, and there isn’t just one solution either. It’s very, very complicated,” admits Johnson.

Johnson says it’s not a big problem that needs to be fixed, but a problem that needs to be eliminated. Although this is a complicated issue, local nonprofits say they will continue to be a safety net for people to fall back on.

“It’s organizations like ours and many others that are there to provide that safety net,” Aranki proclaims.

Julio V. Miller