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28 Percent of County Residents Can't Afford Basics

A new report from United Way calculates the number of struggling working families.

Federal poverty statistics say less than 4 percent of households in Somerset County are below the poverty line, but more than six times that can’t afford basic necessities, according to a new United Way report.

According to the United Way, New Jersey sees one in three households in the same situation, hard-pressed to pay for "housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation."

And for Somerset County, there are 32,361 households (28 percent) that are struggling, with 5,169 (4 percent) living below the U.S. poverty line and 27,092 (24 percent) falling into what the United Way has called the ALICE population, meaning they cannot afford basic necessities.

United Way released a report, five years in the making, to document the number, location and experiences of New Jersey families who are working, yet "who live each day one crisis away from falling into poverty." The report is known as the ALICE project, which is an acronym for " Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed."

According to the study, it is most expensive for a single adult to live in Somerset County, with a budget set at $32,323. But on the other hand, the county has the highest income opportunity, which makes it more likely for a household to be financially stable.

The study found that an annual budget for a family of four in Somerset County is $66,160, with a breakdown of $1,409 for housing, $548 for food, $634 for transportation, $387 for health care, $501 for miscellaneous costs and $417 for taxes.

The median household income in the county is $94,270.

In Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Bernardsville, Bernards, Watchung, Peapack Gladstone and Far Hills, the study found that 21 to 30 percent of households are below the ALICE threshold.

In Warren and Green Brook, a total of 15 to 20 percent of households are below the ALICE threshold.

And in Bedminster and Millstone, 31 to 40 percent of households are below the ALICE threshold.

In total, according to the study, Somerset County ranked three out of the 21 New Jersey counties in terms of its economic conditions, with one being the best.

"I love living in New Jersey. When one drives around the state it is hard not to notice the beautiful tree-lined streets, lovely homes, nice cars, and great shopping," wrote John B. Franklin, CEO, United Way of Northern New Jersey, in a prepared statement.  "These are all signs of the affluence that surrounds us, but if you look a little closer, scratch the surface and get a deeper glance, you will find ALICE."

Anthony Perrucci September 07, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Somerset County has enjoyed the distinction of being one of the most affluent counties within the United States boasting the highest per capita residence of college educated inhabitants for many years. Many of those dynamics are simply not valid as a result of The Great Recession engulfing our country. True, there are pockets of extreme wealth within Somerset County but there are also many communities struggling to maintain basic services. Rarely, before the real estate crash, were there ever Somerset County properties in foreclosure and even in the best of the best communities real estate prices have retreated and negotiation is now a word fashionable again.

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