Business Leaders Gather Around ALICE Initiative

New Investments Bring New Solutions
04 2023 Auw Tko 9401
Left to right: Jennifer Diesman (HMSA), Shelee Kimura (Hawaiian Electric), Momi Akimseu (Bank of Hawaiʻi Foundation), Ray Vara (Hawaii Pacific Health). | Photo: courtesy of Aloha United Way

Aloha United Way was one of the first dozen partner states to support local research around the newly-coined ALICE population. Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed or ALICE has come to define the people and individuals in our community who exist above the Federal Poverty Line, but can’t make ends meet. They make tough choices every day and when something unexpected happens, they have few options. The initial ALICE Report in 2017 provided our community with the framework, language and tools to not only understand but address the nearly 50% of households living at or below the ALICE Threshold. The working poor, essential workers, retired, struggling families with children, and the “forgotten” were now recognized in this new ALICE framework. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck our worst fears were realized.

In 2019, AUW established the first ALICE Cohort. The small group of AUW Nonprofit Partners were funded through the AUW ALICE Fund and were working together, from the data, to demonstrate programs uniquely suited to serve ALICE Households. Only a year into their work, the ALICE Cohort and ALICE Households faced incredible challenges both accessing and delivering services. Everyone changed course and the original Cohort brought programs to a close at the end of 2021.


Growing Support from the Business Community

By the end of 2021, it became clear that we needed to redouble and refocus our efforts. This required understanding the new economic and social landscape in a post-pandemic world. The Hawaiʻi Community Foundation (HCF) partnered with Aloha United Way to do exactly that. HCF pledged to invest $750,000 over the next three years to the AUW ALICE Fund and work together to lead the next ALICE Cohort from 2022-2024. The partnership was unprecedented. AUW and HCF awarded $1.5M to 17 non-profit organizations in 2022. The new ALICE Cohort are working collectively to identify solutions that make ALICE Households more financially stable, secure, and resilient. For this collective work, our policymakers, and business leaders new data was needed.

The Bank of Hawaiʻi Foundation stepped forward and supported new ALICE research. Today, Hawaiʻi is the only state in the nation to have 2022 ALICE data available. AUW’s national research partner and will release a new report in May 2023 grounded primarily in 2021 data sources.

ALICE in Hawaii: 2022 Facts & Figures revealed what we all feared. A large percentage of our population had fallen into poverty two years after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many ALICE Households could not weather the COVID-19 economic storm and continue to struggle with aftershocks of rising household expenses and inflation. The 2022 report called for greater cross-sector cooperation and investment to increase financial stability and savings for ALICE Households in order to prevent further decline. It became clear as well that the influx of stimulus did have a positive impact and as those funds disappear, we are left in a very precarious position as a community.

There has been an outpouring of support from the business community. The Bank of Hawaiʻi Foundation, HMSA, Hawaii Pacific Health, and now HEI Charitable Foundation have joined the fight for ALICE and the future of our state. Shelee Kimura, President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric stated it clearly, “In Hawai’i, our strength comes from our sense of community. When some members of our ‘ohana, or family, are struggling, then we must all come together and help. We need to support each other for our community to truly thrive.” ALICE has become the foundation for the work we have to do today. From government to business leaders, it is clear that our path is together and our approach should be unified. Ray Vara, President and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health puts it plainly, “The work of ALICE touches every aspect of the business community throughout our state and across every industry. It monitors how regenerative and inclusive the business sector is functioning within the broader community. The ALICE work needs to be a collaboration between every business leader in our community.”

From April to September 2022 the ALICE Cohort reached more than 11,000 households and our collective work continues. AUW and HCF are asking the business community to invest in the ALICE Initiative and help create a more viable and stable future for all of our people.

ALICE Initiative sponsors include: The Bank of Hawaiʻi Foundation, HEI Charitable Foundation, HMSA, Hawaii Pacific Health, and Locations Foundation.

Support the ALICE Initiative today or contact us to learn how you can be involved.



Categories: Partner Content