Report: 44% of Kids in Lower Northwest Michigan Below ALICE Threshold

"It really does feel like we're a region of haves and have nots." Gina Aranki Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan

A new report from United Way of Northwest Michigan shows nearly half of kids in Lower Northwest Michigan live below the ALICE Threshold. The report was released as the first part of their new 2022 ALICE in Focus Series.

Alice Kids Pkg 6 040700 00 21 14still002The ALICE Threshold represents the minimum income level necessary for survival for a household. The Executive Director of United Way, Seth Johnson says the numbers are shocking.

“It’s a really striking number. 26,000, 44%, that is a very striking number for the number of children that are in households that are financially struggling,” Johnson says.

Of that 44%, 11% live under the Federal Poverty Level. 32% earned above the poverty level but did not earn enough to afford the basics where they live.  Johnson says the numbers aren’t that shocking.

“When you look at the number of homeless students that we have in our school districts. When you look at our free and reduced lunch rates. It doesn’t really shock [you] when you start to look at that,” Johnson explains.

Gina Aranki, the Executive Director of Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan says the report is sobering. She says families in our region have had to make tough decisions.

“It means perhaps families are making choices between paying the rent or buying food or medication. That they’re not able to get all their needs met. We see those stresses on families every single day,” Aranki states.

Local non-profits like Child and Family Services offer mental health services. They also help people get in contact with the services they need. While the assistance from the community helps, United Way says the issue is very complicated. Kids

“Why is this happening and what can we do about it? When it comes down to it, there’s not one reason for why it’s happening and there’s also not one solution. It’s very, very complicated,” Johnson admits.

Johnson says it’s not one big problem that needs to be solved, but an issue that needs to be chipped away. Although a complicated issue, local non-profits say they’ll continue to be a safety net for people to fall back on.

“It’s organizations like ours and many others that are here to provide that safety net,” Aranki proclaims.