While the federal poverty rate in Juneau County is 12 percent, many more people are struggling to make ends meet.
The United Way of Wisconsin recently released a report detailing those who are working, but still struggling to have enough funds to survive. They call this threshold Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE).
Currently, 35 percent of Juneau County households are living below the ALICE threshold. This means 47 percent of families in the county fall below the ALICE or federal poverty rate threshold. The ALICE threshold members are working, but still don’t have enough income.
“The basic cost of living is based on five drivers of a household budget, housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and for those households that have children, childcare.” said Charlene Mouille, United Way of Wisconsin executive director.
The threshold is designed to look at the basic needs a person will have. For instance, the housing expense for Juneau County is set at $448, and $652 for a family of four with an infant and preschooler.
“Most people look at that and say that would be difficult to find in the county,” Mouille said. “It’s the bare minimum. It’s not even what it really takes.”
The report does leave space for some day to day expenses; it does not include things like cell phones, which many people use as a primary and only phone.
Mouille said many people living below the threshold often have to make hard choices like deciding between going to the doctor or having proper food to eat.
The hope is the study will remove some of the stigma people feel when they are struggling. Some people may realize they are not alone, with many other members of the community facing the same problems.
“Some people think when people are struggling it’s because they made a bad choice,” Mouille said. “I don’t think families aren’t working hard, they’re trying to make ends meet. They don’t want to ask for help… It’s hard to talk about when you’re the only one.”
Mouille suggests those looking for health and human services can always contact, 211. The United Way wants to start conversations about what can be done to address the problem.
“There isn’t one magic bullet,” Mouille said. “We hope people will start talking and the United Way can learn more to work with partners and develop solutions.”
For more information on the report visit Unitedwaywi.org/alice.