1 in 3 New Jerseyans Struggling to Survive
A new report finds more Jersey families are having a tough time making ends meet than anyone might have imagined.
Dr. Stephanie Halpin, the Director of the New Jersey DataBank at Rutgers, has authored a new report called ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – which was commissioned by the United Way of Northern New Jersey.
She says “what we found was a magnitude of financial hardship that was very surprising -about 10 percent of the garden state population is living in poverty, but what we found is another 24 percent of households in New Jersey are struggling to afford just the basic household necessities.”
She says “we looked at the very minimal costs for housing, child care, transportation, health, and food – and a big part of the problem is a lot of families are on the brink of disaster if they get sick, or have hours at work cut back…in fact, about 40 percent of households in New Jersey don’t have enough savings to live at the poverty level for 3 months.”
As a result, Dr. Halpin says “if you are working at a job and your hours get reduced or your wages get reduced, or someone in your family loses their job and suddenly you have less income- suddenly you’re really stuck with this high cost of living – how do you fill in?..People cut corners in lots of different ways, from living in sub-standard housing to moving much further away from their work, hence we see a lot of traffic here in New Jersey -people use child care from relatives and friends that might not be of the same quality as an accreted child care center, so there’s all kinds of ways of cutting corners that have consequences for the families as well as all of us.”
She adds “the problem is much larger than we thought, and going forward – we hope this will be the ground work, that people need to start thinking of – okay, what kind of policies do we need to improve this situation- and we know they cannot be small policies – this is a big problem, we need big solutions.”
Dr. Halpin adds “the people who are in this struggling category are in retail sales, cashiers, office clerks, janitors, waitresses, nursing aides, health aides…they’re essential to the New Jersey economy – some people are having to work 2 and 3 jobs because the wages are so low…New Jersey is facing a huge unemployment problem – and the under-employment problem is very high – we have people who want to work who can’t, and we have people who are cobbling together 2 and 3 jobs but still have very low wages – that makes it hard to achieve a decent standard of living.”