Go Ask A.L.I.C.E.

Many of us have seen the values of our homes go up dramatically over the past year. If you own your own home, this can be a very good thing, even with the tax liability, because your asset is growing.

For those who are renting, this change may lead you to becoming part of a designation known by the United Way as A.L.I.C.E. — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are the households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the cost of living in Williamson County..

When housing (and other costs) go up, but your income remains the same or can’t keep up with the increased costs, it becomes harder and harder to keep up. One unexpected bill can be catastrophic. But you’re not eligible for many poverty programs. This is the gap in our economic system.

Because of the pandemic and the increased costs of living in our area, many of us are falling into this gap. If you’re not in this designation, I promise you, you know many people who are. It’s your parent on Social Security, your child care worker, employees at your favorite restaurant, office workers, laborers, mechanics, and your friends.

When we talk about people in need, we often think of those who are homeless. But our A.L.I.C.E. friends and neighbors are having difficult times right now. They’re skipping needed doctor’s visits. They’re skimping on meals. They’re stretching out medication.

I don’t know the most recent statistics around this for our county. But in 2016, 27% of Williamson County were A.L.I.C.E. households.

So … what can we do about that? Buy and pay off medical debt for our neighbors? Offer day-care “scholarships”? Lobby for systemic changes?

I’d love to hear your ideas.