ūüó≥ÔłŹ 2018 Primary Election Guide

Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food

NEW YORK — The economy may be chugging along, but many Americans are still struggling to afford a basic middle-class life.

Nearly 51 million households don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, healthcare, transportation and a cell phone, according to a¬†study¬†released Thursday by the United Way ALICE Project. That’s 43% of households in the United States.

The figure includes the 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that the United Way has dubbed ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what’s needed “to survive in the modern economy.”

“Despite seemingly positive¬†economic signs, the ALICE data shows that financial hardship is still a pervasive problem,” said Stephanie Hoopes, the project’s director.

California, New Mexico and Hawaii have the largest share of struggling families, at 49% each. North Dakota has the lowest at 32%.

Many of these folks are the nation’s child care workers, home health aides, office assistants and store clerks, who work low-paying jobs and have little savings, the study noted. Some 66% of jobs in the US pay less than $20 an hour.

The study also drilled down to the county level.

For instance, in Seattle’s King County, the annual household survival budget for a family of four (including one infant and one preschooler) in 2016 was nearly $85,000. This would require an hourly wage of $42.46. But in Washington State, only 14% of jobs pay more than $40 an hour.

Seattle’s City Council just passed a¬†controversial tax¬†on big businesses to help alleviate the city’s growing homelessness and affordable housing problems.