Report says nearly 40 percent of Iowans can't afford basic needs

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CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KCRG-TV9) -- A new report the United Way released Tuesday shows 37 percent of Iowans can't afford basic needs.

The Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed or ALICE report looked at 1.2 million households.

It found that more than 450,000 households had trouble paying for things like food and housing.

The United Way tells us the problem is getting worse and say one of the major factors is the increase in healthcare and childcare cost.

"The curve is not turning for us, it's not turning in the right direction, but we can do something about this, particularly right now, we have such great assets in our communities," says Leslie Wright, Sr. Vice President of Community Building for the United Way of East Central Iowa.

ALICE families live above the nation's poverty level but still struggle to pay for food, bills, and housing expenses.

ALICE populations are usually people who are working, but making $20 an hour or less.

These families also tend to have a hard time saving money each month.

Most ALICE families are working class and in many cases working more than one job to support their families.

Although ALICE populations can be found throughout Iowa, many live in rural communities.

"Especially if you have children you'll see in the ALICE report for a family of four, you're looking at a job that pays almost $30 an hour, those aren't real prevalent in some of our smaller rural communities," says Wright.

In Cedar Rapids, neighborhoods like Taylor and Westdale have a large number of ALICE families.

More than 60% of people living in those neighborhoods would qualify as ALICE families.

The United Way found in order to survive in Iowa a family of four would need to make $56,000 a year.

And an individual would have to make more than $19,000 a year.

Childcare is usually the highest expense and accounts nearly for 22% of a family's budget.

The United Way says the best thing communities can do is create pathways to better-paying jobs.

They can continue to build on partnerships with universities and colleges to make sure students graduate and receive better-paying jobs.

They can also look at issues like making sure people have access to better education and training.

To access the full report you can click on the PDF on the right side of the story.