Over One-Third of Wisconsinites Struggling to Make Ends Meet Financially

Stevens Point, WIApril 27, 2023—Despite the presence of many COVID-era social and financial support measures, a resounding 34 percent of Wisconsin’s 2.4 million households had difficulty affording basic necessities like housing, food, transportation, childcare and internet access. This statistic was revealed in the state’s fourth ALICE Report, released yesterday by United Way of Wisconsin in partnership with United For ALICE and local United Ways statewide.
ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, describes households earning more than the federal poverty level (FPL) but less than the state’s basic cost of living, which the report calls the ALICE Threshold. In Wisconsin, 567,854 (~23%) are ALICE, while another 267,433 (~11%) fall below the FPL.
Though the report is being released today, the data reflected within were collected in the heart of the COVID crisis in 2021. A slight increase in the percentage of Wisconsin households falling beneath the ALICE Threshold since the last Report in 2019 (32%) may suggest that financial insecurity has only modestly worsened in that time, but context surrounding the time of data collection suggests hardship is more pervasive.
At the time of data collection, several vital pandemic assistance measures were in place. Supports such as monthly Child Tax Credit payments, emergency rental assistance and a nationwide Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium along with Economic Impact Payments of up to $1,400 per person were all helping to keep households afloat—and have since been eliminated, leaving families scrambling to fill the void.
The expiration of such crucial support measures, along with the continued disproportionate increase in the cost of necessities in comparison to household income in recent years, suggests that substantially more households are struggling to make ends meet at this very moment in 2023. Measures of difficulty such as sustained high levels of food insufficiency, feelings of anxiety and depression, continued difficulty paying bills, increased medical debt and reduced savings provide indications that this trend is indeed beginning to take hold statewide.
Key Takeaways from the ALICE Report Specific for Portage County:

  • Number of households living below ALICE 31%
  • ALICE Households: 20% (state average: 23%)
  • Households in Poverty: 11% (state average: 11%)
  • Median Household Income: $65,928 (state average: $67,125)
  • Labor Force Participation Rate: 67.6% (state average: 65.1%)
In 2021, household costs in Portage County were well above the Federal Poverty Level of $12,880 for a single adult and $26,500 for a family of four.
In 2019, 10,084 households in Portage County were below the ALICE Threshold; in 2021 this number changed to 9,469, (a -6% change).
“United Way of Portage County will continue to do the critical work to improve outcomes for people in our community, including ALICE,” said United Way of Portage County CEO, Fred Hebblewhite.  “United Way continues to provide resources for health, education, and financial assistance which are crucial to improving the quality of life in Portage County.”
“People in Wisconsin continue to work hard to make ends meet for their families, and far too many are struggling to make that a reality,” said United Way of Wisconsin President and CEO Charlene Mouille. “While the state of emergency has been lifted and pandemic assistance removed, the financial hardships of the COVID era remain a very real struggle—now and in the future—for over a third of Wisconsin households.”
“The ALICE Report continues to illuminate the extent of financial hardship and the many social and economic barriers faced by so many people,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “Spreading awareness for the hardship of our neighbors is the first step in addressing these issues and building happier, healthier communities.”

To read a copy of the Report and find county-by-county and town-level data on the size and demographics of the Wisconsin ALICE population, as well as the community conditions and costs disproportionately affecting these families, visit https://www.unitedwaywi.org/page/ALICEPress. To learn more about programs, practices and policies to designed to improve access to affordable housing, high-quality childcare, education and more, visit https://www.unitedforalice.org/alice-in-action.
United For ALICE is funded and supported by U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation and local United Ways throughout Wisconsin.
About United Way of Portage County
United Way is working to inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow by focusing on the building blocks for a better life—education, financial stability, and health. Everyone in the community is invited to be a part of this effort. Give, advocate, and volunteer. LIVE UNITED. To learn more, visit unitedwaypoco.org.