Almost 1 in 5 Verona and Cedar Grove households struggle to afford basic necessities, despite having working adults in the home, according to Molly Reenie of United Way of Northern New Jersey.
Almost half of Essex County families are also scrimping and cutting corners to live within their means, according to a report released by United Way of Northern New Jersey Monday.
The report, known by the acronym ALICE, or “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” shows 43% of Essex County families earn more than the U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living.
“The premise is if a family is not meeting the minimum household survival number,” Reenie said, “it is struggling to make ends meet.”
The report reveals an Essex County family of four — mother, father, infant and toddler — needs $4,586 per month to make ends meet, but that figure excludes money for savings, clothing and entertainment which families must come up with some other way.
The report says New Jersey sees one in three households in the same situation, hard-pressed to pay for "housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation."
United Way's report, five years in the making, documents the number, location and experiences of New Jersey families who are working, yet "who live each day one crisis away from falling into poverty."
In Essex County, 116,692 households are struggling, with 46,386 households (17%) living
below the U.S. poverty line and 70,306 (26%) falling into an ALICE-type situation.
Based on the ALICE’s Household Survival Budget, it takes $55,036 for a family of two adults, an infant and a toddler to afford the basics — more than double the U.S. poverty rate of $22,113. For a single adult, the Household Survival Budget for a single adult, according to the report, is $23,468, compared with the U.S. poverty rate of $11,344.
The report’s Economic Viability Index evaluates the income opportunities, affordability and support available to assist ALICE households in each county.
Essex County scored a 40 on a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 is worst and 100 is best. Neighboring Union and Morris counties scored a 47 and 61, respectively, in that data.
Essex County's score dropped 27 percent from 2007, with most of the data believed to be the result of economic slowdown.
With this score, Essex County ranked 19 out of the 21 New Jersey counties.
Statewide, there are 1.1 million households unable to afford the state’s cost of living, with conditions across every county worsening.
"I love living in New Jersey,” United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO John B. Franklin said in a statement, adding, “When one drives around the state it is hard not to notice the beautiful tree-lined streets, lovely homes, nice cars, and great shopping. "These are all signs of the affluence that surrounds us, but if you look a little closer, scratch the surface and get a deeper glance, you will find ALICE."