How Does United Way Help ALICE Households in Berks?

ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed

Throughout Berks County, thousands of people are employed but struggle to make ends meet. They earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living, which creates significant hardships. These households are ALICE.

According to a recent report from United Way of Pennsylvania, 25% of households in Berks County – urban, rural and suburban – are ALICE, with an another 10% falling below the federal poverty level.


You see ALICE every day. They are daycare teachers, retail clerks, caregivers, restaurant workers, hairdressers and more. Their households are struggling to survive, and they have difficulty affording basic needs, like housing, transportation, child care and healthcare. There is no room in their budget for unexpected emergencies.

How Does United Way Help ALICE?

United Way of Berks County invests in more than 80 local programs assisting over 150,000 of our community members in need of support, many of whom are ALICE. Currently, 34 programs serve ALICE, representing nearly 13,000 Berks Countians. These programs include:

  • Afterschool Programming
  • Case Management
  • Childcare/ CDA Program
  • ESL Classes
  • Access to Food pantries
  • Information & Referral to community resources
  • Mental Health services including Counseling & Advocacy
  • Transitional Housing & Shelters

211, an information and referral service supported by United Way of Berks County, is another critical resource for ALICE families. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple languages, trained specialists connect individuals with health and human services throughout the community.

In addition to our annual investment and support of 211, we are addressing the underlying causes and the significant issues facing ALICE through our Berks COVID-19 Response Fund efforts, COVID education support and collaboration with the eviction prevention task force.

The Impact of COVID on ALICE Families

While many of the individuals we call ALICE served as front line heroes throughout the pandemic, COVID magnified their financial struggles. In August of 2020, over 1,700 Pennsylvanians responded to a survey about how their households have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey result showed that ALICE households are struggling more than ever before.

  • 52% applied for unemployment assistance
  • 43% received food from food pantries/food banks
  • 36% of households applied for government assistance

Other survey findings include:

  • 70% of respondents below ALICE experienced change in employment status due to pandemic (job loss, reduced hours, temporary layoff, had to switch jobs)
  • 44% of ALICE households report their top concern during the pandemic is paying for housing.
  • 52% of ALICE households are concerned about eviction/foreclosure
  • Additional unexpected and alarming expenses brought on by the pandemic include increased utility use and technology needs
Infographic showing ALICE Covid Survey Data
Learn more

Discover the struggles that ALICE Families face by visiting ALICE: The Experience, an interactive virtual tool that challenges you to make ends meet with a typical ALICE budget.

Together, we can help struggling families and improve lives. The success of our community is directly related to the security and stability of all of its members.