2023 – 2024 Community Report

Every day, 38% of households in Southern Maine make tough choices such as deciding between quality child care and paying the rent. This includes the 9% of households living below the federal poverty level and another 29% known as ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. 

ALICE represents a growing number of households that live above the federal poverty level, and work as our teachers, child care providers, health care professionals, retail workers, and more. Yet, they live paycheck to paycheck, and have little to no opportunity to save for emergencies or for future investments like education, home ownership, or retirement. 

ALICE households also span all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. But some groups experience hardship at disproportionate rates stemming from long-standing challenges like ageism, systemic racism, and sexism. 

Under 25 + Over 65

The youngest (under 25) and oldest (age 65+) households faced the highest rates of hardship.


of Black and 52% of Asian households were below the threshold, compared to 37% of White households. 


of single female-headed households with children are struggling.

Survival Budget

Typically, ALICE households consist of low-wage, full-time workers. Sometimes they work multiple part-time jobs trying to cobble together enough for a survival budget – a conservative budget that includes the necessities of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan. 

The average income in Southern Maine needed for a family of four with two children in child care to reach the survival budget is about $79,000 and about $35,000 for a single adult. That’s three times the federal poverty level of $26,500 or $12,880 respectively and above the full-time earnings for 20 of the most common occupations in Maine.

ALICE workers are the engine that make our economy – and our daily lives – run smoothly. Yet, they are often overlooked and under counted as they live each day unable to make ends meet.


of the 20 most common occupations in Maine paid less than $20/hour.

Food + Housing

Housing is the cornerstone of stability and the most expensive line in most household budgets. Without safe, affordable housing, individuals and families struggle to maintain stability in other areas of life like school and work attendance or access to health care and healthy food. When people earn enough income to pay for basic needs, build savings and gain assets like a home, our whole community benefits. 


of households earning below the ALICE threshold pay more than 30% of income on rent. 


United Way mobilizes our community to address immediate food and shelter needs, prevent people from losing their housing, and support long-term strategies that build household stability. 


households moved from homelessness to safe housing.


households accessed or maintained resources to stay sheltered and safe.


households increased access to high-quality, nutritious foods.


returned to taxpayers living below the ALICE threshold through CA$H Greater Portland.


for Housing First Programs, affordable housing, free community college, student loan repayment assistance, emergency heating assistance, and free tax assistance.


with Homeless Response Service Hubs, Encampment Crisis Response Team, and the Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee to bring people who lived outside into safe shelters.

Child Care

Child care is essential for parents to work and lays the foundation for future education success, health and well-being, and economic opportunity. Yet, child care is the second most expensive item in the family budget, and families face challenges finding quality education at every level due to costs and the shortage of child care providers. Our entire community plays a role in and benefits from transforming children into educated, healthy, independent adults. 


of households earning below the ALICE threshold have not enrolled children in preschool. 


United Way supports efforts that create career pathways for child care providers and increase access to child care and high-quality early learning experiences.


hours spent reading with children through UWSM's Volunteer Reader Program.


invested in community schools with wraparound services, and high quality before/after school programming.


for better salaries for child care providers and Maine families to have increased access to the Childcare Affordability Program.


new child care entrepreneurs graduated from the Child Care Incubator Program, and a second cohort launched in April of 2024.


invested in preschool and early childhood education programs.


Supported two First4ME pilot sites to ensure child care providers have the resources they need to provide high-quality programming.

Mental Health + Substance Use

Mental health challenges and addiction are both consequences and causes of financial instability. While health insurance has become more available to lower-income families, there are still many without adequate insurance, which means they may not have the coverage to address mental health issues or substance use. Additionally, long wait lists, work and family obligations, and stigma make it difficult for someone faced with challenges to access care.


of adults in Maine who needed mental health care did not access it because of the cost.


United Way mobilizes our community around efforts that promote mental health and reduce harm, prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and support to foster recovery. 


people reported a decrease or elimination of substance use after gaining access to appropriate healthcare.


reduction in overdose deaths through partner coordination and focused efforts on harm reduction in our community.


community members with addiction engaged in a program to mitigate the dangers of substance use.


referrals to mental health or addiction resources for Southern Maine callers by United Way-supported 211 Maine.


youth received support and services to heal from trauma and abuse.

Take Action for a Thriving Southern Maine

Thanks to the donors, volunteers, and advocates like you, our community has a solid foundation and stands strong to reach our community’s shared vision where everyone can thrive.