MARIN COUNTY, CA — When the coronavirus pandemic struck, millions of California households were one emergency away from financial ruin — setting the stage for the unprecedented economic impact of the crisis.
The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report from United Way provides county-by-county data and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.
The hardest hit California counties are in the far northern and southern parts of the state and the Central Valley. Bay Area counties, including Marin County, fare much better.
Here in Marin County, 7 percent of the nearly 104,687 households live in poverty. Another 29 percent fall below ALICE.
As the cost of housing, child care and other essentials rose over recent years, low-income families systematically lost buying power and financial stability, the report said.
"No matter how hard ALICE families worked, the gap between their wages and the cost of basics just kept widening," said Jessica Muroff, speaking on behalf of the United Way. "These already-fragile ALICE households are now facing an even deeper financial hole due to the state of emergency created by COVID-19."
Oftentimes, ALICE households are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, the report said. Since the closure of restaurants and stores, struggling families have sought food donations, protection from eviction, and relief from other bills.
Statistically, Marin County as a whole is among the best performing counties in California. Santa Clara and Placer counties have the highest percentage of households above the ALICE threshold, at 67 percent, while Marin is at 64 percent.
Households above the ALICE Threshold:
- Alameda County: 64 percent
- Contra Costa County: 63 percent
- Marin County: 64 percent
- Monterey County: 48 percent
- Napa County: 60 percent
- San Francisco County: 63 percent
- San Mateo County: 65 percent
- Santa Clara County: 67 percent
- Santa Cruz County: 58 percent
- Solano County: 62 percent
- Sonoma County: 62 percent
The hardest hit counties are Imperial County on the Mexican border with just 36 percent of households over the ALICE threshold and Del Norte, on the Oregon border, with 42 percent.
Patch editors D'Ann Lawrence White and Bea Karnes contributed to this report.