We’ve been talking about ALICE quite a lot — an emerging economic class whose acronym stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE individuals are those who work hard, but can’t make ends meet. We’ve also mentioned some statistics about ALICE households in our own community, most notably, that 47% of our neighbors’ households in the city of Chattanooga fall below the ALICE threshold.
Statistics like these can make the issue feel hard to grasp or overwhelming and beyond help. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s important not to shy away from these numbers — instead, let the statistics motivate you to get educated and engaged. United Way of Greater Chattanooga is here to help guide and empower you through the process of making a difference in our community. After all, ALICE households are made up of our neighbors, and adverse circumstances impact their lives every day. We all have the ability to impact their circumstances.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press’ Neediest Cases Fund is administered by United Way of Greater Chattanooga via our partner agencies who request funding on behalf of the applicant. The fund exists to provide individuals like ALICE with one-time monetary support in crisis situations — those who receive funding from Neediest Cases are capable of independent stability. Applicants can ask for funding meet a specific, circumstantial need. And the needs that Neediest Cases recipients often ask for help with are clear examples of the frequent, high-strain situations that ALICE individuals too often find themselves in — needs like money for a car repair that will enable someone to keep their job, or money for a utility bill that will keep the household’s heat on while the single mother is on maternity leave.
Last year, Neediest Cases Fund recipient Reginald Knight missed his flight home from a carefully planned and budgeted trip to the DC area to visit his family. He was forced to spend his last dollars on a replacement ticket home, leaving him with nothing to pay his bills that month. This represents the plight of so many ALICE individuals — for Knight, one missed flight was more than just a nuisance. It was the difference between maintaining or losing financial and household stability. Luckily, Knight was referred to the Neediest Cases fund via the local nonprofit Family Promise, and his bill was covered. Knight worked as a surgical assistant in the military for many years, but due to health reasons, was unable to keep this job full time after being discharged. He’d been relying on social security and other temporary work while managing his income down to the last dollar from month to month. Through his experience with Neediest Cases, he was pointed in the direction of veteran benefits, which he did not previously know were available to him. He spoke of being able to return to working part-time in surgery after the benefits kicked in and afforded him more flexibility. Neediest Cases provided Knight not only with funding, but with a greater degree of resource knowledge and connected community.
Donating to the Neediest Cases fun is one quick and impactful way to ensure that ALICE households in our city continue to have a crisis safety net in place. You can learn more about the fund’s history and donate here. Make sure to keep an eye out for the impact of your dollars in the Chattanooga Times Free Press — our partners there will be sharing the stories of this year’s funding recipients during November and December. If you yourself are in need of help, you can reach out for more information by calling United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s resource hotline, 2-1-1. Together, we can build a strong network of support for our ALICE neighbors.