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Bucks County nonprofit helps families in need buy cars

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In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a United Way program – Learn to Invest in Your Future and Thrive – addresses a critical need for workers who are struggling to manage emergency expenses.

LIFT supports individuals identified as “Asset Limited, Income Restricted, Employed” – a designation for individuals who are employed but are financially vulnerable.

Rachel Lozano, a 26-year-old mother of three and part of the ALICE demographic, found herself in crisis when her car broke down last fall. Without savings for a new vehicle, Lozano relied on friends and expensive Uber rides to manage his travels.

“I was desperate,” Lozano said, reflecting on her situation.

She represents the 35% of ALICE households headed by a single woman in the region, where the average income is $38,000.

A quick online search led Lozano to LIFT, which offered her free financial education classes and connected her with a financial advisor. Through the program, she also got a low-interest car loan, contingent on completing her courses. Within a month, Lozano saved enough for a down payment and bought a new car.

Rachel Lozano poses for a photo
Rachel Lozano, 26, is a mother of three and works in a medical office. When her car broke down, she received help through the United Way of Bucks County pilot program. (Vicky Diaz-Camacho/WHY)

Data from the United Way of Bucks County suggests that nearly 29 percent of the U.S. population fits the ALICE profile, including about one in three in Bucks County alone. Advocates say cars are an integral part of suburban life. Workers who typically earn “just enough” include health care workers, child care experts, and certified nursing assistants who care for the elderly.

Social scientists say this group is “economically vulnerable,” and “more socially and health vulnerable” because of their restricted access to public assistance programs.

They often find themselves on the brink of financial disaster, ineligible for most public assistance due to their income levels.

“The average survival budget here ranges from $34,000 for a single adult to $84,000 for a family of four in need of child care,” said Marissa Christie, CEO of United Way of Bucks County.