Seeing and Strengthening ALICEalicegraph1

There have always been families who work hard and still fall short of what they need but the size of this group is trending up. The challenges faced by our families and community are complex and while there is no ‘magic bullet,’ we need all community stakeholders engaged to find workable and sustainable solutions.

Since the Federal Poverty Level has been calculated the same way since 1965 and applies the same standard to all communities, the numbers have been unhelpful and conversations are often unproductive.

ALICE refers to those who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  ALICE is above poverty but below what it takes to independently survive in your community

United Way will use soon to be released data to launch an updated ALICE Report in early 2017 but the interim data helps us already identify some changes in southwest Florida.

This region is one of the few in the state to be rising together.  While, there is general improvement there are still some specific and general concerns.

In Lee County the total number of struggling families continues to fall yet the percent of households in poverty continues to grow.  While Lee was above average in Florida before the recession, its current performance has brought it more in line with the state as a whole.

Lee is somewhat unique in who is struggling.  A slightly higher rate of two parent families struggle in Lee than in many other counties around the state.  However, the rate of struggle between families headed by a man or a woman are more equal in Lee than many other communities.


United Way 211

United Way 211 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. United Way 211 is a free 24-hour non-emergency helpline that exists to help anyone in the community navigate their way through the maze of human and social service agencies in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties by providing the most adequate resources for the client’s situation. Areas of assistance include employment, financial assistance, food, housing, and medical care. English and Spanish languages are readily available.


Individuals and working families who earn a household income of $66,000 or less can have their taxes filed for FREE by United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. United Way’s Free Tax Preparation program helps low- to moderate-income taxpayers meet their basic needs and build financial assets as they continue to become financially stable and achieve long term financial independence.

IRS certified volunteers will provide free basic income tax return preparation helping clients take advantage of all possible earned income and childcare tax credits. The goal is to help move working people towards greater economic self-sufficiency by catching up house payments, paying medical bills, and many important uses.

VITA is offered in ten locations located throughout Lee County with one location open year round. Last year, volunteers prepared over 5,500 tax returns bringing $7.4 million dollars back into our community.

Business and organizations are welcome to have a human resources or selected staff member attend the training and offer self-assisted tax preparation through on site as well. Contact Patrice Cunningham call 239.433.7557 or email Individuals interested in utilizing the program may call 211 for a site near them.

United Way Houses

United Way oversees 15 resource centers throughout Lee County. Known as United Way Houses these community centers offer centralized access to services such as employment, food pantries, literacy assistance, after-school programs, ACESS sign-up, counseling, and more by bringing multiple community agencies together in one location. Last year, over 244,000 individuals received assistance through the United Way Houses. For locations visit or call 211 for more information.

Other Considerationsalicegraph3

In addition to community resources, there are many systems and policies only business leadership can develop. Please consider how your company can use these and other strategies to strengthen your company and your employees.
Scheduling- The world’s most competitive companies have found ways to recruit and retain workers through a variety of flexible scheduling options. Examples include flexible scheduling and worksites, as well as establishing paths to full-time positions for part-time workers.
Retention Strategies- Skill development and well designed education reimbursement programs lead to more productive and loyal workers.
Health- All Florida children are eligible for health insurance coverage through KidCare, regardless of parental income. The premiums are determined on sliding scale based on income, but even the highest premiums are less expensive than those of many employer provided family plans.
Wellness- Smoking cessation, gym discounts, 5k event teams, and other strategies help create a healthier work environment and a healthier, more productive workforce. Health insurance companies, local hospitals, and other area agencies offer these at low to no cost.

For the full ALICE report click HERE.

For more information on the ALICE Report visit or contact Madison Mitchell at