Our view: Local United Way shines light on people in need of help, hope

October 22, 2020 | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

By AJ Media Editorial Board

Beneath the seemingly smooth veneer of a Lubbock community where many things are indeed going well is the harsh reality that more families than ever are struggling to make ends meet. This was true even before a global pandemic altered virtually every facet of everyday life.

Now, some seven months into a world dominated by COVID-19, more Lubbock households are feeling the financial strain, through everything from unforeseen employment disruptions to unexpected medical expenses. Despite the repeated assurances of “we’re all in this together,” that mantra doesn’t ring true for many.

In its mission of Giving People Hope, the Lubbock Area United Way has invested time, money and effort over the previous two years building awareness of the large numbers of struggling neighbors throughout Lubbock County. The acronym used by the local United Way to describe the group is ALICE, which means Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It applies to households which earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living in Lubbock County.

Estimates indicate more than 40% of the county’s households fall into this group of  working people who may not be able to afford everyday necessities such as health care, childcare or save for an unforeseen emergency. In the local United Way’s most recent community status report, statistics indicated 19% of the county’s households live below the poverty level, and another 23% fall within the parameters of ALICE.

The community status report puts it this way: “When 40% of American households do not earn enough to cover basic expenses, it proves a structural economic problem. Wages simply are not keeping pace with increases in cost of living across the nation.”

At the Lubbock Area United Way’s Mid-Campaign Report event earlier this week, partner organizations pointed out the ease with which a family could find itself suddenly struggling. There was the single mom who lost her job when the pandemic began last spring. She turned to a local agency for help paying utility bills.

There was the single father of five unable to afford health insurance for his family. He turned to a local agency for help with health care. The married Texas Tech graduate student with two children turning to an agency for quality childcare. The working single mom who needed help after she got sick and had her water heater go out.

These are only a few of the local faces of ALICE, people one emergency not of their own making away from needing help. According to our story earlier this week, the median household income from 2014-2018 in Lubbock County was $50,473, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. United Way says the estimated survival budget for a family of four in Lubbock County is $51,864. That figure reflects “the bare minimum a household needs to live and work today,” according to the United Way’s report.

The Lubbock Area United Way reminds us that people need help and that the best time to help others is right now. The organization announced earlier this week that it has raised $3.5 million of its $5.7 million goal.

There is still time to contribute to this year’s campaign. No gift is too small, and every gift is appreciated. In addition to that, every gift makes a difference right here in our community.

We thank all of those who have generously contributed to the United Way and encourage everyone to consider assisting this year’s campaign – either through a financial contribution or through becoming a volunteer.