United Way striving to help Vicksburg and Warren County ALICE families

Published 3:16 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

For ALICE, one small financial set back, like an unexpected flat tire, could mean having to decide between buying groceries or getting to work.  

So, who is this ALICE that is being put between a rock and hard place? 

ALICE, which is the acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, is one who doesn’t fall below the federal poverty line, but cannot make ends meet, United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director Michele Connelly said. 

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ALICE first came to light, Connelly said, after a financial hardship study was done in Louisiana. 

“ALICE households were configured by survival budgets that are just the bare minimum of what it takes to survive such as your transportation, lodging, healthcare, childcare and such,” Connelly said.

In light of the data found in Louisiana’s study, Connelly said the Mississippi United Way statewide directors wanted to bring this study to their state.

“We wanted to give ALICE a voice,” she said, because unlike those who fall below the poverty line and are eligible to receive benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides additional income benefits for retired and disabled people and/or certificates that allow for a reduction in the price of childcare, ALICE does not qualify for these government-funded programs.

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Mississippi United Ways Association was able to conduct its own study.

Data showed that of the 50 percent of people who struggle with covering all their expenses, 19 percent of those fell below the federal poverty line and 31 percent were ALICE. 

In Warren County, ALICE makes up 21 percent of the 80 percent of individuals who struggle financially, Connelly said.

Now, with this data, she said, the UWWCM will be able to better access how to make decisions for the community.  

“We want to use this data to determine how best to invest United Way dollars back into our community who desperately need our assistance,” she said.

The information is also being used to make data-driven decisions and advocate for policy change across our state, Connelly said.

In less than two months after ALICE was introduced, she has already made it to the Senate floor. 

Connelly said there is talk from senators about minimum wage, and they are talking about the gap in gender pay.

“Eighty-three percent of single-headed female homes with children in their homes cannot make ends meet in the state of Mississippi,” Connelly said. Of those 58 percent fall below the federal poverty line and 21 percent are ALICE.

“Alice is a real person,” Connelly said. “I have presented a couple of times at a couple of civic organizations and afterward people have come to me and said, ‘I never even knew anyone knew that we existed, so to hear you talk about us is extremely powerful.'”

“We are going to keep talking about ALICE,” Connelly said. “And we are going to keep talking about this subgroup in our community.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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