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ALLEN-HERRING: How We Can Do More for ALICE in Washington, D.C.

By Rosie Allen-Herring

Courtesy of

A new United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA) report on DC sheds light on the financial hardship of those who are working yet cannot afford the basics in the communities where they live. Of the 319,565 households in D.C., 135,314 — 42% — had income below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival in 2021.

ALICE, a United Way NCA acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the number of individuals and families working but unable to afford basic necessities, such as food, healthcare, childcare, transportation expenses and more.

While the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) is updated yearly, the Census Bureau determines poverty status using Thresholds dating back to 1963. The antiquated FPL, the fact that ALICE households may not qualify for federal benefits or safety nets, and the increased cost of living over time, all contribute to the growing number of ALICE households.

To illustrate, a family of four with two parents working full time in two of the most common occupations (retail salesperson and cashier) earning a combined $58,500 annually could not afford DC’s Household Survival Budget of $92,736 in 2021, even with the $20,800 in assistance through the expanded Child Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and the Economic Impact Payments.


ALICE is our district’s childcare workers, home health aides and cashiers – those with little or no savings and one emergency from poverty. The gap between wages and the cost of living is a structural economic problem that has worsened since the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, Wednesday, May 17, United Way NCA will host its annual Do More 24 For ALICE.

Do More 24 is a social movement that convenes nonprofits, private companies, and people of all ages committed to making a difference in their community. This year during this 24-hour online day of giving, we ask our friends and neighbors to imagine for a moment what life would be like if you were unsure of how you would pay your rent, mortgage, or utility bills next month.

As the region’s convener, collaborator, and catalyst, United Way NCA’s goal is to create a more equitable society where everyone in our community has fair and equal access to health, education, and economic opportunity. We cannot do this work alone, so we’re calling on the community to Do More for ALICE. We know that collectively we can make great strides to reduce ALICE households in our region. When none are ignored, all will thrive. For more information, please visit

Rosie Allen-Herring is president and CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area.

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