A new report shows fewer Virginians are able to meet the realistic costs of living in the state.
Advocates fear the COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating the trend.
The report is part of the ALICE project, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It calculates a more realistic cost of living by factoring necessities like childcare, transportation, technology access and healthcare.
That amount ranges from about $2,500 a month for a single-person household to more than $6,000 for a family of four. The study found almost 40% of Virginia households are in danger of falling below that threshold. The percentages are even higher for Black and Hispanic households and single-parent families.
“Basic, essential items such as food, clothing, transportation, medical care are all increasing,” Sarah Walsh said in a virtual news conference Wednesday. “But of course wages have not kept pace with these increases.” Walsh spearheaded the statewide report for Rappahannock United Way.
The report also found the number of lower-wage, hourly jobs in Virginia has been growing, while higher-paying jobs with benefits have been declining.
That makes the situation even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to National ALICE Project director Stephanie Hoopes. “One thing that we’re seeing in the work world is a bifurcation of workers. We’re seeing essential ALICE which is continuing to keep our economy running smoothly, keeping things open, food supplies available, and essentially enabling the rest of us to be able to stay home and work.”
Those essential workers are often the least able to financially weather an extended illness, according to Sarah Walsh. “We can see that those struggling to cover their living costs are especially vulnerable to an unexpected life event like a job loss, a divorce, an illness and, of course, a global pandemic.”
Virginia United Way agencies use the data to target specific needs like mortgage and rent relief as well as lower cost childcare. They’ll also use it to lobby for more government support of programs like job skills training.