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Report: Majority of Bexar County Families Live in Poverty or One Financial Misstep Away From It 

click to enlarge Even those who don't fall under U.S. poverty guidelines can be dangerously close to financial peril, according to a new report by the United Ways of Texas. - ARTEM BALI
  • Artem Bali
  • Even those who don't fall under U.S. poverty guidelines can be dangerously close to financial peril, according to a new report by the United Ways of Texas.
A little more than half of Bexar County families were either living in poverty or a single emergency away from it in 2016, according to a new study by the United Ways of Texas.

In Bexar, 15 percent of households fell under U.S. poverty guidelines during that period. However, another 36 percent — more than twice as many — teetered at the edge of financial crisis even though they exceeded the federal limit, the study says.

That latter population — referred to as "asset-limited, income-constrained, employed," or "ALICE" residents — earn too much to qualify for government assistance but can barely cover basic expenses such as housing, transportation and child care.

That means, combined, 51 percent of Bexar households fall below the ALICE threshold.

"ALICE families are working households. They hold jobs, pay taxes and provide services that are vital to the economy of our state and all of our communities," said Adrianna Cuellar Rojas, President and CEO of United Ways of Texas. "For ALICE, one setback, one car repair, one natural disaster or even a minor illness may escalate quickly and leave a family vulnerable and spiraling.”

The statewide numbers are better, but only slightly. According to the report, 14 percent of Texas families lived in poverty in 2016, while another 28 percent were ALICE households.

United Way officials say the statistic
s demonstrate that the federal poverty level of $24,300 for a family of four is outdated and no longer reflects economic reality. While some Texas cities, including San Antonio, are experiencing robust economic growth, costs are rising faster than wages.

“There is a basic belief in Texas that if you work hard, you can support yourself and your family," Rojas said. "Yet the Texas ALICE Report shows that for more than 4 million households in Texas, this is not the case."

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