A single mom who made ,000 last year working 3 jobs says she’s struggling to pay the bills but doesn’t qualify for SNAP or affordable health insurance

    A single mom who made $55,000 last year working 3 jobs says she’s struggling to pay the bills but doesn’t qualify for SNAP or affordable health insurance

    ALICE single mom

    A Massachusetts-baed single mom says she’s struggling to pay the bills but no longer qualifies for many government programs. The person in the story is not pictured. damircudic/Getty Images

    • A Massachusetts-based single mom of two is working three jobs but struggling to pay the bills.

    • She made $55,000 last year and said she’s ineligible for many government-assistance programs.

    • She’s among the ALICEs — Americans who are above the poverty line but struggling financially.

    Sarah is struggling.

    The single mom of two, who’s based in Massachusetts, made about $55,000 last year across one full-time and two part-time jobs, according to documents viewed by Business Insider. But she said it wasn’t nearly enough.

    “Every month is a struggle to make sure all the bills are paid — there’s never enough for savings,” she previously told BI via email, referring to her car loan, car insurance, rent, and food. “It is frustrating and exhausting, mentally and physically.” (Sarah asked to use a pseudonym to prevent identification by a prior partner she said was abusive.)

    Sarah knows of several government benefits programs that might be able to help her, but there’s a problem: She said she doesn’t qualify for many of them, in large part because her income is too high.

    In the past, Sarah said she’s qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and MassHealth — the last of which provides free or low-cost healthcare to Massachusetts residents in need. But with her earnings, she’s above the maximum pre-tax annual income threshold of $34,341 to qualify for MassHealth.

    She still qualifies for a rental voucher housing assistance program that subsidizes a portion of her rent, but she said she still spends roughly 40% of her monthly income on housing. What’s more, she said she’s “dangerously close” to losing this rental assistance because her income is too high — the eligibility criteria vary by city in Massachusetts.

    “The poverty limit is light years away from reality,” Sarah said. The federal poverty level is $31,200 for a family of four or $15,060 for an individual.

    Sarah is stuck in no-man’s-land, and she’s not alone. In 2021, about 13% of the US population was in poverty, according to data from the nonprofit organization United Way. But an additional 29% qualified for what United Ways calls an ALICE — asset limited, income constrained, employed.

    ALICEs are Americans who are struggling to pay the bills but may make too much money to qualify for government benefits like SNAP, rental assistance, or Medicaid. Without government benefits to supplement their incomes, the rising costs of living expenses like food and housing over the past few years have proven particularly challenging for some ALICEs.

    To be sure, the share of Americans in poverty is near the lowest level in decades, according to the most recent Census Bureau data, which reflected the poverty rate as of 2022. The unemployment rate remains low, inflation-adjusted wages are rising, and Americans across income levels have seen their wealth grow considerably in recent years.

    But not all Americans are thriving — even among those who’ve managed to stay above the poverty line.

    “There’s never enough for savings”

    Sarah said she’s done whatever she can to earn an income for her family, including working one overnight shift a week last year. But after paying the bills, there’s rarely much money left over.

    “There’s never enough for savings, let alone emergencies or even taking the kids out to a proper restaurant,” she said.

    She’s applied for several affordable housing programs, but she said most of them have waitlists that are five to 10 years long. Though the housing assistance she still receives is helpful, she said she still doesn’t have enough money to afford a bed.

    “I have been sleeping on a couch and surviving off of a food pantry and creative means — like utilizing friends with various store discounts and almost exclusively wearing used clothing,” she said.

    She wishes more was being done to help people like herself.

    “The housing crisis must be attended to immediately,” she said. “Food stamp guidelines and other social safety net programs need an overhaul because the current system is flawed and outdated.”

    Are you an ALICE or working while still struggling to afford daily life? Contact this reporter at [email protected].

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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