San Juan County’s ALICE—which stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed”— refers to those islanders who work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but do not earn enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, childcare, food, transportation, and healthcare. ALICE affects all of us. We know, for example, that is estimated that almost 30% of San Juan County residents need some form of assistance at some time throughout the year just to make ends meet. There are thousands in this county who struggle to provide the physical, emotional and educational resources their children need to succeed. Throughout the state, 13% (343,878 households) live in poverty, and 19% (510,342 households) are ALICE. ALICE households include women and men, young and old, urban, suburban, and rural, and of all ethnicities, and they live in every county in the Pacific Northwest.
According to our community foundations' studies and other reports we have studied, the need for affordable rental housing, for the long-term workforce and seasonal workers, is critical. This is common knowledge, with most of us being affected by this problem in one way or another. Working people who live here face difficult choices such as foregoing healthcare, accredited childcare, healthy food, or car insurance to make ends meet. These “savings” threaten their health, safety, and future—and they reduce productivity and raise insurance premiums and taxes.
The housing shortage in San Juan County reaches beyond ALICE to affect a great many islanders, from our teachers and auto mechanics, our secretaries and to our nonprofit workers, to folks working in our service industry. As our county grows in popularity as an international destination and desirable location for second and third homes, the loss of available rentals and affordable homes to buy will just get worse. That is, if we don't do something about it.
2014 Point-in-Time Data
Population: 15,847 | Number of Households: 7,611
Median Household Income: $54,331 (state average: $61,366)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (state average: 6.5%)
ALICE Households: 19% (state average: 20%); Poverty Households: 11% (state average: 12%)
How many households are struggling?
ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county (the ALICE Threshold, or AT). Combined, the number of poverty and ALICE households equals the total population struggling to afford basic needs. The number of households below the ALICE Threshold changes over time; households move in and out of poverty and ALICE as circumstances improve or worsen. The Great Recession, from 2007 to 2010, caused hardship for many families. Conditions started to improve in 2010 and 2012 for some, but not for all.
What does it cost to afford the basic necessities?
The bare-minimum Household Survival Budget does not include any savings, leaving a household vulnerable to unexpected expenses. ALICE households typically earn above the Federal Poverty Level of $11,670 for a single adult and $23,850 for a family of four, but less than the Household Survival Budget.