United Way of Southeastern Idaho (UWSEI) has been working hard to share the work of our organization, including assessing our community, including the ALICE study.

As a refresher, ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, an updated definition of financial hardship in local communities. The most recent report tells us that 44 percent of Southeastern Idaho households cannot afford basic needs on a month to month basis.

As we continue community conversations about ALICE, it’s important to remember:

• ALICE households do not have the financial resources to weather an emergency. Unplanned and/or emergency expenses in excess of $400 will place families in a precarious position. For example: a slip on the ice requiring a visit to the ER and subsequent doctor’s appointments and treatments for the typical ALICE household will mean choices about which bills to pay, which bills to pay late, and which bills to take a chance on skipping. Pay the doctor, but not the rent and be faced with an eviction notice. Pay the rent, but not the doctor and fend off collections and late fees adding more debt. These types of decisions are not only difficult to make, but can be the final straw that will put ALICE families into a downward financial spiral.

• The financial instability that ALICE households face is complex and interconnected, as are potential solutions. When we talk about financial well-being of community members we’re talking about: housing affordability, healthcare affordability, childcare/daycare access and affordability, job availability, and many other factors.

• Jobs that typically make ALICE level wages include: retail, food service, drivers, care aides, laborers, entry level teachers, cooks, warehouse workers, assistants (teaching, nursing, medical, and administrative), etc. These are friends, families, and neighbors. Many make too much to qualify for federal/state services and community programs, but not enough to afford necessities.

• The “E” in ALICE stands for employed. These are working families.

What can you do with this information? Where are there opportunities to get involved? There is no one solution or one organization able to make the large scale change needed. It must be a concerted effort of interconnected and dedicated community members digging into these issues for the long haul. Here are a few ideas to consider.

1. Consider business practices. As a business owner, are your hours of operation conducive to those who have jobs that won’t allow them to leave in the middle of the day? Are you located in a place that is accessible to ALICE households, or can you bring your services to their workplaces or neighborhoods? Do your services align with other organizations that you can coordinate with to provide multiple services at one location?

2. Volunteer or donate. Give a little time to local services agencies to provide support and gain a deeper understanding of the needs in our community. Donate money, extra goods, time, and energy if you have them.

3. Get involved. Attend city council meetings, open house, forums, planning meetings, etc. Make sure you are aware of what is happening in the community. Ask questions about economic development, housing growth and changes, expansion/diminishing of services within our area, etc.

4. When you hear statistics about our area, dig in, ask more questions. What does this mean? What else will this impact? What isn’t being said? Who will this impact? What are the long term implications of this information?

5. Speak up. Speak out. Write a letter to the editor. Share the information you learn with others. Ask if your workplace can get involved; especially if they have company values or mission that align with community advocacy. VOTE.

I ask you to consider this: Who are the important people in your life? Do you have children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.? What does Southeastern Idaho offer them? Is there anything that is missing from our community that is vital to keeping loved ones here? Are all of the opportunities available here for your loved ones to live a happy, financially stable, secure, and meaningful life? If you cannot say we are perfect, if there are things we can improve on, then I ask you to consider how you can help.

To connect with us, we are at 275 S. 5th, Suite #250, in the OMNI Building, Pocatello, ID 83201 or at 208-232-1389 or at unitedwaysei.org ~ Please join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with UWSEI community activities and information.

Felice Otero is the Director of imPACT East Idaho at the United Way of Southeastern Idaho. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and her master’s degree in Higher Education at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Felice enjoys spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors with her sassy miniature schnauzer Pixie.