New research: 50% of people with disabilities in Virginia live in financial difficulties

From Rappahannock United Way:

According to a new report by Rappahannock United Way and its research partner United For ALICE, the number of people with disabilities in Virginia struggling to afford basic necessities is far higher than federal poverty data suggests — 15% versus 50% .

While 15% of residents with disabilities were classified as poor in 2019, 35% – more than twice as many – were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty line, but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. Collectively, 50% of Virginia residents living with disabilities were below the ALICE threshold, with incomes that did not cover basic expenses for housing, childcare, health care, transportation, and a smartphone plan.

“On the 32ndnd On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are seeing residents with physical, mental or emotional challenges who are struggling financially not only being undercounted, but also underserved,” said Stephanie Hoopes, national director of United For ALICE, Ph.D. “There is still work to be done as disability puts the individual at significant risk of financial instability more than many other factors. Every day, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, these individuals face barriers to accessing quality education, secure jobs and critical support.”

That ALICE in focus: people with disabilities Report and interactive tools show that during the pandemic, people with disabilities below the ALICE threshold were three times more likely to be anxious than people without disabilities.

The new study also shows that outdated federal guidelines prevent the majority of residents with disabilities living in financial distress from accessing essential public assistance. According to the new report, a staggering 85% of residents with disabilities below the ALICE threshold did not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program requires recipients to have an income below the poverty line, be disabled, have a “severe” disability and have less than $2,000 in their bank accounts, $3,000 if married.

“The income requirements for SSI have not been updated in nearly four decades, which is one of the main reasons more than 422,606 residents have been denied a much-needed financial lifeline,” said Rappahannock United Way Chief Impact Officer Sarah Walsch. “By using data that takes into account the true cost of living, we can create important support offerings that help those who need it most.”

More insights out ALICE in focus: people with disabilities contain:

  • Black and Hispanic residents with disabilities – 62% – disproportionately experienced financial difficulties compared to 45% of white people with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities had more trouble affording basic amenities – 13% – compared to 12% of men with disabilities.
  • In Virginia, 32% of residents with disabilities below the ALICE threshold spent 35% or more of their income on their mortgage, plus utilities, taxes, and insurance.
  • Regardless of whether they worked full-time or part-time, people with disabilities were more likely to live from paycheck to paycheck than those without disabilities: 27% of full-time employees with disabilities were below the ALICE threshold compared to 22% of full-time employees without disabilities.

Hoopes also pointed out that hardship cases are likely to be even higher given the lack of data available for people living in nursing homes, correctional facilities and other group facilities.

More data is available through the ALICE in focus: people with disabilities Interactive data dashboard that offers filters for regional and local geographies, age, race, disability status, living conditions, and household work status. Visit

AICE in focus: people with disabilities marks the second installment in the ALICE in focus research series. Each part of the series highlights a specific segment within the ALICE demographic. The first installment focused on children; the next report will be about veterans.


Via Rappahannock United Way

Celebrating 80+ years in our community, Rappahannock United Way is a local non-profit organization serving Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and Caroline. Rappahannock United Way’s vision is a community where individuals and families reach their potential through education, financial stability and healthy living. Together we can create opportunities for a better future. Learn more at

Rappahannock United Way is acting as project manager for the ALICE project in Virginia.

About Virginia United Ways

Twenty independent local United Ways came together across the Commonwealth to work together on the ALICE project in Virginia.

About United For ALICE

United For ALICE is an engine for innovation, research and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. The development of the ALICE measurements has created a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship. Using this data and research into the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners come together, advocate and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at the local, state and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by the United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 24 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, DC, West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are united for ALICE. For more information, visit:

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