Forty percent of SWLA households struggling to make ends meet

Published: Jan. 29, 2016 at 11:17 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 30, 2016 at 2:48 AM CDT
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Forty percent of 111,791 households in Southwest Louisiana's five-parish area are struggling to make ends meet.

That's according to a new 253-page report which sheds light on the number of households in Louisiana that are considered ALICE or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

United Way released its ALICE report this week which is basically a study of financial hardships.

"I think one of the surprising things in the report are the number of ALICE people we have in our community who are working and trying to survive on such a small, it really is a survival budget and that's what it's referred to in the report. In the state of Louisiana there are 40 percent of our population is struggling at or below the ALICE threshold and that mirrors us in Southwest Louisiana as well," explained Denise Durel, United Way Southwest Louisiana president.

Despite the perception of economic growth all around us, Durel said, "These families are working as hard as they can and don't have a penny in savings. They don't have anything to help them plan for an emergency or crisis."

Tricia Bruns, who considers her family middle class, knows that struggle.

"One of the things that we experienced was a rent increase. We were renting a trailer in South Lake Charles," explained Bruns.

But when their rent jumped from $800 to $1,200 a month, Bruns said they moved, "to a much smaller location so we could pay far less rent in order to be able to get into the position where we could purchase a home. So, that way we weren't stuck paying that much rent for the rest of our lives, something that would never be ours."

But there were other hurdles.

With three children, Bruns said despite her job in retail, quitting to home school her children was a better financial choice.

"I would have been working just to pay for the daycare," said Bruns.

But living off one income - her husband working three jobs at one point - came with tough choices.

"When you have to make the decision to buy food instead of pay the electric bill and get an extension or you know you're sick but even though you have insurance it still costs money to go to the doctor and you don't have that extra because you have to buy food. It's tough," explained Bruns.

And when they did get off assistance - not by choice - they faced new bills, like healthcare.

"The struggle was real," said Bruns.

"It's just reality," explained Durel.

But Durel said thanks to the ALICE report, they can focus on how to help these families.

"It helps us identify them so we can make sure that our programs and our partnerships and our collaborations are inclusive of them, then help them move forward," said Durel.

While Bruns said they're now homeowners, they still budget every penny. And in six months, it's made a huge difference.

"We feel relief and we feel free, even though sometimes there may not be enough, we know where it is and where it's going," explained Bruns.

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