In the early weeks of the hotline, we received a call from Sandra whose husband and son had lost their jobs and she was requesting assistance to buy insulin for her son’s diabetes management. We started working to get the insulin but when we followed up with the family, Sandra said her son had gotten some help and stocked up on insulin, so asked if we could help her get her heart medications instead. A case manager from the response team coordinated by United Way helped her prioritize her crisis budget, navigate unemployment benefits, access direct financial assistance from our Coronavirus Recovery Fund and get a steady supply of her medication.
A few days later, she called to tell us her son did not actually have any insulin – he had told her that so she would think he didn’t need help and would take care of herself – and was now in a diabetic coma. Thankfully, he recovered and came home! We continue to follow the family through our care coordination system and are now providing prescriptions for both Sandra and her son so everyone can stay healthy.
This is just one example of the choices ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families face daily. ALICE makes “too much” money to qualify for many government services, but not enough to cover the basic costs of living, trapping them in the gap between assistance and self-sufficiency. They are often in crisis or one step away from it, so something like a lost job or a medical emergency can topple their stability. One in three families in South Hampton Roads qualifies as ALICE, and that number has grown by 30,000 since the onset of COVID.