LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Alyssa Stewart is working to give a voice to Michiganders who despite being employed are still struggling to get by.

“We can’t support what we don’t see, we can’t address what we don’t see,” said Chief Impact Officer, for the United Way of South Central Michigan, Alyssa Stewart.

For her, that starts with looking at a different way to measure poverty levels. It’s part of a United Way research project called ALICE.

“ALICE shows that there is sort of the federal poverty line and then above that is this ALICE category of folks who are above the federal poverty line, so often not eligible for different services of benefits but are really still based on the actual cost of living struggling.”

Stewart says the current poverty line for a single-person household is around $12,000 a year.

“If you can imagine being able to survive off of a thousand dollars a month that is essentially what the federal poverty line reflects.”

The United Way says their research shows that based on the current cost of living that amount should be closer to $24,000 a year. The ALICE report shows nearly 40% of Michigan households fit into that category. Experts say one of the hardest hit groups is people living with a disability. The ALICE report shows out of the 1,368,811 people counted nearly half fit into the ALICE threshold.

“I don’t think that people realize how many barriers and challenges a person with a disability faces,” said President and CEO of the Disability Network Southwest Michigan, Yvonne Fleener. “So when you see the actual data along with the stories of people’s lives I think those two things combined can be really impactful.”

Stewart says she hopes the research leads to more resources for the people who need it.

“Too many folks with disabilities are not receiving the public benefits that would really benefit them.”

Stewart says right now the data is already being used to focus on specific programming. This includes things like financial planning to partnerships with food banks. For a complete look at the research there is a link below.