"The people that can't really afford the state's high cost of living, and don't earn enough income in order to afford the basics and necessities needed," said Danielle Hogan, associate VP of marketing and communications for the United Way of Central Maryland.
The non-profit's study of financial hardship looked at data from 2014. It focuses on the 25 percent of families across the state who were above the national poverty level of earning $23,850 a year, yet didn't bring in enough money to pay for what the United Way calls the household survival budget of $61,224 a year. That budget includes housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare.
"We all know an ALICE, whether it be someone who we see at the local coffee shop, or who, is waiting on our table for lunch, or is taking our change at the toll booth," Hogan said.
These ALICE families are working hard, often multiple jobs, but don't earn enough to afford a place to live, basic costs of everyday life or have safety net savings. In many cases they are forced to choose between child care and healthcare, or food on the table and car insurance.
"There's no nest egg,” said Hogan. “They don't have any additional funds for if there's an emergency, if their car breaks down, or if a hot water heater explodes in their basement, they're literally living paycheck to paycheck."