Louisiana is poor. It’s been ranked by U.S. Census Bureau data and U.S. News & World Report as the poorest state in the nation since 2016.

The latest data shows Louisiana with the second highest number of residents living in poverty at 19.7%. This means that nearly one out of every five people in Louisiana lived below the poverty level in 2017.

The national poverty rate is 12.3%. And the number of children in Louisiana living in poverty is even higher at 28.4%.

Earlier this week the United Way released the results of the ALICE Project that highlights the financial struggles of working Louisiana residents at the parish level.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. It is the child care workers, cashiers, mechanics, aides, waiters and waitresses that live and work in every town of the state who do not earn enough money to afford the basic necessities.

The ALICE Project started in 2009 in New Jersey as a tool used to provide real data collected about real families who work but still cannot afford housing, child care, food, transportation, healthcare, cell phone access and taxes. Until ALICE, many of these families were invisible.

The ALICE report is used to find ways to improve lives by informing policymakers, coalitions, organizations, employers and the general public about the serious struggles people experience.

Together with the United Way, government agencies, nonprofits, and corporations have the opportunity to evaluate the report and discover new approaches that will create changes that improve life for ALICE households and the community.

The report reveals that 29%, nearly 500,000 homes, of Louisiana households are ALICE and another 19% live in poverty. Overall it shows that 48% of all Louisiana households cannot afford the basics.

ALICE households in the state exist in all age groups, across all races and ethnicities, in single and two-parent families and with or without children.

Despite a slow inflation rate nationwide, during the period of 2010-2016, the bare-minimum household survival budget of Louisiana ALICE households increased by 16% for a single adult and 33% for a family.

This means that a single adult household needs to earn a minimum of $19,548 to just afford the bare-minimum necessities such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, taxes and miscellaneous expenses. In order to meet the basic needs, you would need to work full-time at a rate of $9.77 per hour.

A two adult household with one infant and one child in preschool needs to earn $53,988 to cover the expenses for a year at a rate of $26.99.

There are currently 212,980, or 45%, of Louisiana families with children living below the ALICE threshold.

In Vernon Parish, the population is 52,101 and there are 17,789 households. The median household income is $46,561 but 38% of the households are ALICE and 13% of them live in poverty.

In Beauregard Parish, the population is 36,435 and there are 13,106 households. The median household income is $46,599 and 25% of the households are ALICE with 18% of them living in poverty.

The national poverty level for a single adult is $11,880 and for a family of four it is $24,300.

The reason families continue to struggle is that the costs of the bare-minimum necessities have increased by 33% within the state during the 2010-2016 time frame and low-wage jobs continue to dominate the Louisiana economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded that there are 1.9 million full and part-time jobs in Louisiana but 66% of them pay less than $20 per hour and nearly two-thirds pay less than $15 per hour.

The most common occupation in the state is a cashier with more than 71,000 retail workers making less than $8.77 an hour, or $17,740 if working full-time all year. If changes are going to be made to decrease the number of ALICE households, one place to start is to increase the hourly wage.

Currently, Louisiana does not have a state minimum wage, they use the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.

For more information on the ALICE report visit www.unitedwayalice.org.