Americans who are asset limited, income constrained, or employed (ALICE) have an income below the federal poverty line that is still not enough to support themselves to live and work in today’s economy. (Photo by ar on Unsplash.com)

By Kara Thompson,
Special to the AFRO

Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) residents who also have a disability are experiencing financial hardships at a rate much higher than what the federal poverty data reports. 

According to a new report from United Way of Central Maryland and United for ALICE, only 16 percent of Maryland residents with disabilities were said to be in poverty in 2019. However, another 34 percent of persons living with a disability are members of the ALICE community. 

ALICE residents have earnings above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to support themselves to both live and work in today’s economy. 

According to the report, nearly 50 percent of Marylanders with a disability live in poverty when you combine the number of ALICE residents with a disability and the number of Marylanders living in poverty with a disability. Data from the report shows that roughly half of all Marylanders with disabilities have incomes that do not cover basic needs like housing, a healthcare plan, childcare, methods of transportation, or cell phone plans, meaning they live under the ALICE Threshold. 

“On the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see that residents with physical, mental or emotional conditions who are struggling financially are not only being undercounted but underserved,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, in a statement. “There is still work to do as having a disability puts individuals at substantial risk for financial instability, more than many other factors. Daily, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, these individuals face barriers to accessing a quality education, secure jobs and critical support.” 

The report, titled “ALICE in Focus: People with Disabilities,” shows that residents with disabilities who also lived below the ALICE Threshold were over four times more likely to have anxiety than people without disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It also illustrates that most residents living with disabilities are prevented from receiving public assistance due to outdated guidelines from the federal government. 

The ALICE in Focus report shows that 85 percent of those under the ALICE threshold did not receive the Supplemental Security Income that they deserved. SSI requires that any recipient must have an income level below the poverty threshold, not be able to work, have an impairment that is deemed “severe,” and have under $2,000 in their bank—under $3,000 if it applies to a married couple.

“Income eligibility requirements for SSI haven’t been updated in nearly four decades, which is one of the big reasons why nearly 300,000 residents were shut out of receiving a much-needed financial lifeline,” said a statement by Franklyn Baker, CEO of United Way of Central Maryland. “By using data that takes into account the true cost of living — we can establish critical supports that help those who need it the most.”

The new report also finds that 61 percent of Black residents and 56 percent of Hispanic residents with disabilities experience disproportionate financial hardship, as compared to only 44 percent of White residents with disabilities. Women also tended to have more difficulty with affording basic necessities at 54 percent, as compared to 46 percent of men.

According to the report, in Maryland, only 5 percent of the workforce is composed of people with disabilities, and are much more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck. Though they are employed,  some full time employees –25 percent– with disabilities are under the ALICE threshold, though, that number is 21 percent for workers without disabilities. Out of those with disabilities under the threshold, 41 percent in Maryland were spending at least 35 percent of their paycheck on their mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities. Those who were renters were spending the same percentage of their income on rent. 

Since there is no data for people with disabilities who live in nursing homes or correctional facilities, Hoopes noted that their rates of hardship are likely much higher.

Through the interactive data dashboard of ALICE in Focus, more data is obtainable. The dashboard allows users to filter the data by geographic area, as well as demographics such as age or race. To learn more, visit UnitedForALICE.org/Focus-Disabilities.

The new report is the second in a series that uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Samples. Each part of the series focuses on a certain segment of the ALICE population. The next report will highlight veterans, while the first report had a focus on kids.

For more information on the new report, or other data from United Way of Central Maryland, visit www.uwcm.org/reports.

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