Nearly half of SC residents struggle to afford basic necessities, data shows

Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2023 at 6:48 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While only 15% of South Carolina households live below the federally recognized poverty line, data shows that many more households are struggling to make ends meet.

Trident United Way, in partnership with United Way of South Carolina, created ALICE which stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed. This research organization represents the households that are working and earning above the federal poverty line but are still not able to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, childcare, health care, transportation and a phone.

Through ALICE, the organization has been able to collect data regarding income among residents of different states. South Carolina is the 29th state to be a part of this initiative.

Through the ALICE data report, the United Way has found that 29% of people living in South Carolina fall into this category. Also, 15% of South Carolina households fall below the federal poverty level. This means that 44% of South Carolina households are struggling to survive.

United Way representatives attribute this issue to the rise in cost of housing since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As hard as we work, sometimes it’s still not enough to get by and why is that? Because the amount of money it takes to live here far exceeds the amount of money we make,” Dr. Courtney Howard, chair of the Community Impact Committee for Trident United Way, said.

United Way representatives said they believe that the federal poverty line is not enough information to determine the needs of a person, and that a lot more goes into it. They said that just because someone has an income, does not mean they can afford everything they need to survive.

Based on the data from ALICE, there are approximately 2 million households in South Carolina. Of those 2 million, 877,933 households live below the threshold they call “the ALICE household survival budget.”

United Way representatives said that they want people to see just how much of the population is impacted by this issue.

“Many of us have family members who are ALICE, and many of us have been ALICE ourselves,” United for ALICE National Director Dr. Stephanie Hoopes said. “ALICE is a critical part of our communities.”

Trident United Way’s goal with this data is to raise awareness about this issue of financial hardship in the state and to hopefully create solutions.

“It can’t be something we, as United Way, fix alone,” South Carolina United for ALICE Director Katie Reams said. “It has to be something that we work together to achieve and we are excited for that work. We want to do that.”

One way Trident United Way is trying to do that is through its Barriers to Employment program. This is a fund in place to assist people in gaining or sustaining employment. Through this program, they help with initial expenses when someone begins a job, like a bus pass or new scrubs, but also with unexpected expenses for someone who already has employment, like new tires to get to and from work.

President and CEO of Trident United Way David Hampton said he believes sharing the stories of these families is critically important. He believes that ALICE will help expand more of those conversations.

“This is an issue that has been growing over the years and we hope that the framework will provide one mechanism for community conversations to help address their needs,” Hampton said.

Hampton also said that this quarter they are going to offer four Changemaker grants to nonprofits. They will be awarded based on the ALICE population and the nonprofits that are working to help those families. Each grant will be $25,000. Those can be found at

Click here to read more of the ALICE research data and the action that is being taken.