KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Nearly half of Northeast Tennessee households are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new report released by the United Way.

The report focuses on people with jobs that pay $20 an hour or less in a category called ALICE, which stands for Asset-Limited Income-Constrained and Employed.

“It’s a great acronym to describe those that are above the poverty level but still really struggle paycheck to paycheck to get by,” said Dannelle Glasscock, executive director of United Way of Greater Kingsport. “They’re only one emergency away from not being able to make ends meet.”

According to the 2023 ALICE report, 46% of Northeast Tennesseans have incomes below what is needed to survive in the modern economy. For a family of four, that’s an hourly wage of about $29.

“75% of our jobs in our community are in this ALICE category,” Glasscock said.

The end of pandemic programs means the report might undercount the number of local ALICE families.

“We are just now seeing the edge of the iceberg at United Way with calls coming in on our lines, with calls coming into 211 about families that are struggling now after the pandemic to make ends meet,” Glasscock said.

She said affordable housing is the main issue in our region.

Rental assistance ended in March and the data in the report has a two-year lag. Rents reported at $500 dollars for one adult in 2021 could now be as high as $1,000 dollars.

But housing isn’t the only thing that has gotten more expensive in recent years.

“Inflation’s hit us all hard,” Glasscock said. “And it’s especially hit these ALICE families hard for just the cost of groceries, the cost of gas, the cost of transportation.”

To read the report, click here.