39% of Coffee County families live in poverty or earn just above federal poverty level

A new report shows 39% of the families in Coffee County either live in poverty or are in the ALICE population, meaning they earn above federal poverty level but their income is insufficient, according to Jennifer Neel, executive director of United Way of Highway 55.

A new report shows 39% of the families in Coffee County either live in poverty or are in the ALICE population, meaning they earn above federal poverty level but their income is insufficient.

That percentage is even higher for locals 65 or older - 43% of Coffee County senior households live in poverty or are identified as ALICE population, according to Jennifer Neel, executive director of United Way of Highway 55.

Serving residents of Coffee, Moore and Warren Counties, the United Way of Highway 55 aims to increase access to income, education, health and basic essentials.

ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is used to define households earning above the federal poverty level, but not enough to afford an adequate household budget. The new study intends to identify ALICE population and serve it better.

The United Ways of Tennessee’s ALICE Report identified the number of poverty or ALICE households in each city – Manchester is at 38% and Tullahoma is at 46%.

“One of the biggest concerns we found from the report is child care,” Neel said. “Child care for two children accounts for almost 22% of the household budget, making this the family’s greatest expense, at an average of $917 per month. For many ALICE households, 22% of what they earn isn’t enough to pay for even home-based child care, the least expensive option with the fewest quality regulations. While child care reimbursement is available for some working families in Coffee County, some ALICE families have earnings that exceed the eligibility threshold, and others struggle to cover the difference between the subsidy and the care provider fee.”

The United Way of Highway 55 will use the new data to better serve the community, said Neel.

“We are researching what United Ways in other states have implemented in response to the ALICE Report in their communities,” Neel said. “We want to make sure that we are staying relevant and helping to solve issues in our community. This report shows that we still have work to do in order to help our families not just survive, but thrive.

“I do see in the foreseeable future that we will use findings from the ALICE Report to evaluate our current programs and make a plan for new programs.”

For more information about United Way of Highway 55, visit www.highway55unitedway.org.