Bucks County Nonprofit Shines Light On Economic Challenges Of Working Families

March highlights the struggles of working individuals unable to meet living expenses despite earning above the poverty line.

A clerk stocking a shelf at a store. File photo.

Who is ALICE?

According to United Way of Bucks County staff, ALICE could be your neighbor, a coworker, or even you.

ALICE is an acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

Marissa Christie, president and CEO at United Way of Bucks County, said those who qualify as ALICE are working but still have trouble making ends meet. They could be a 9-1-1 dispatcher, child care worker, or a clerk.

Statistics show that 27 percent of Bucks County residents meet the ALICE guidelines.

Nikki Farrior, a social worker and the impact services manager at United Way of Bucks County, emphasized the problem that ALICE individuals face, “They are employed though their income struggles to keep up with the rising cost of goods and services in our country. They earn above the federal poverty income guidelines, which deems them unqualified to access many anti-poverty agency programs.”

“ALICE does not discriminate. It does not limit itself to municipal borders as every Bucks County municipality has at least 12 percent of households living below the ALICE threshold,” said P.J. O’Brien, impact director for financial stability for United Way of Bucks County.

“Often data doesn’t tell the true story. Regularly, Bucks County is referred to as one of the more affluent communities in the state … however, our ALICE population equals the state average,” he said.

O’Brien noted that single-parents are hard hit.

“They are one unexpected bill away from crisis,” he said.

The Bucks County Commissioners recently proclaimed March as ALICE Awareness Month.

“We commend United Way of Bucks County for the work they do to improve the well-being of members of our community. We hope this recognition encourages community engagement, offers support to community initiatives and inspires collaborative efforts to address the needs of ALICE families,” the proclamation signed by the Board of Bucks County Commissioners states.

Throughout March, United Way of Bucks County will release a series of video testimonials featuring local ALICE families. The stories are shared to provide insight into the daily struggles and difficult choices faced by ALICE households.

One testimonial comes from Rachel, a medical receptionist and single mother, who gained financial stability through the nonprofit’s LIFT United program. The initiative through collaboration with Penn Community Bank, the County of Bucks, and Credit Counseling Center offered her financial coaching that led to assistance with a down payment and a used car loan.

Jeane Vidoni, president and CEO of Penn Community Bank and an early advocate for ALICE, stressed the importance of the proclamation in raising awareness and reducing the stigma around financial insecurity. “This proclamation is an important step in raising awareness of ALICE’s challenges,” Vidoni said.

“This proclamation is an important step in raising awareness of ALICE’s challenges and reducing the stigma around financial insecurity,” Vidoni said.

“We are deeply committed to shining a spotlight on the challenges faced by ALICE households,” Christie said. “At United Way, our programs are designed to help ALICE and to ensure that these folks can remain stably employed. ALICE Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to educate our community – to show how much we all depend on this population – and highlight ways people can help.”

For more information about ALICE Awareness Month events and initiatives, the public is encouraged to visit

Editor’s Note: Publisher Tom Sofield is a member of the United Way of Bucks County Board of Directors. 

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