The Most Vulnerable Are Always at Risk

Have COVID-19 questions? Dial 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211 for answers.


The Most Vulnerable Are Always at Risk 

United Way of Southeast Louisiana supports the stability and well-being of our region, which makes us especially concerned about Coronavirus Disease’s (COVID-19) progression here at home. After all, we fight for the most vulnerable among us, which today, includes those susceptible to the virus and its economic impacts.  

We’re all aware of the primary effects of a public health crisis of this nature, but it’s the secondary consequences that possess the potential to cause significant harm to the core of our work and the individuals we serve. 

The high-risk populations – older adults and people with chronic medical conditions – and COVID-19’s initial symptoms are evident, which is why we’re encouraging all individuals to take preventative action to avoid exposure and transmission.   

But it’s the virus’ long-term outcomes that are far reaching and pose a major threat to ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).  


ALICE®: A Vulnerable Population  

ALICE households work hard – often multiple jobs – but still struggle to afford even their most basic needs, including housing, food, transportation, child care, and health care. 

Cash-strapped households are often forced to make impossible choices, like deciding between fixing the car or paying the rent. These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for ALICE families, which make up 47% of the households in Southeast Louisiana, but for all of us. 

When you factor in the size and low wages of the tourism, hospitality, and gig economies in our region, it’s clear that a large portion of our population is teetering on the edge of financial ruin and unable to withstand much time out of work.   

There is a role for smart public policy to support ALICE to limit this instability, including implementing paid leave and a living wage, but those are plays for the long game. Any steps employers can take in the intermediary to offer assistance should be considered with the same thoughtfulness as similar measures already deployed to slow the virus’ spread. 

Postponing events, modifying educational offerings, and offering flexible work options are prudent and necessary, but the effects on ALICE will be sudden and sharp. That’s why United Way is focused on supporting households living below the ALICE threshold, which stand to face increased economic instability, through our advocacy and financial capability work to help them endure the long-term challenges ahead.  


Coronavirus and the Nonprofit Community 

Our region is blessed to have an intricate system of safety-net organizations, many of which are United Way partners, which sustain the stability of our community. Without their support, many individuals who live below the federal poverty level and, in some cases, ALICE households would struggle to survive as they battle hunger, homelessness, poor health, and similar challenges that come with life in poverty.  

The overwhelming majority of these organizations rely on philanthropy and public funds – both of which are in short supply – to provide services. As COVID-19’s economic impact grows across Southeast Louisiana, those dollars will be more difficult to come by as budgets are pinched, and worse still, the need for these services will increase as people miss work, miss paychecks, and miss out on opportunities not afforded to the less fortunate.  


An Uncertain Path Ahead 

The chances of contracting COVID-19 in our region will likely have little to do with income, race, or other dimensions of diversity. Even with conservative forecasting, there probably won’t be too many spared by either the virus or related financial losses. 

These short-term effects will have lasting consequence on the community as we face the reality of a region with a weakened economy and growing needs. United Way is actively working with our partners to determine the most effective way to support ALICE households across our service area. Please be on the lookout for ways in which you can join our fight and lift up the most vulnerable among us.   

Living United,  



Have COVID-19 questions? Dial 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211 for answers.