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New data depicts widespread financial struggles across McLennan County
 Cassie L Smith  / 
United Ways of Texas image 

For McLennan County, a single adult operating on an ALICE “survival budget” makes an hourly wage of $9.23, or $18,468 a year, whereas a household of two adults and two school-age children must make $21.33 an hour or $42,660 a year, according to a new study by the United Ways of Texas.

Forty-four percent of McLennan County households in 2016 were either in poverty or one emergency away from falling into it, according to a new study by the United Ways of Texas.

While much attention has been paid to the 17 percent of households in McLennan County that fall under federal poverty guidelines, the United Way report finds that a much larger population lives in households where financial crisis is the norm.

The study shows that 27 percent of families here earn more than the poverty level but not enough to afford basic cost-of-living expenses for Texas. The study calls this population “asset-limited, income-constrained, employed,” or “ALICE.”

ALICE families struggle daily to meet the basic cost of living expenses, said Barbara Mosacchio, United Way of Waco-McLennan County executive director.

“They often move in and out of poverty and crisis, and our United Way is committed to joining with our partners to increase financial resiliency for ALICE families and individuals,” Mosacchio said.

Those identified as ALICE households are typically the ones falling through the cracks in regards to getting services, she said.

“They are one crisis away from going over that federal poverty line,” she said.

United Ways of Texas image 

For McLennan County, a single adult operating on an ALICE “survival budget” makes an hourly wage of $9.23, or $18,468 a year, whereas a household of two adults and two school-age children must make $21.33 an hour or $42,660 a year, according to a new study by the United Ways of Texas.

The report shows the cost of basic needs in a household survival budget for each county in Texas. A comparison chart shows what the household must achieve for financial stability.

For McLennan County, a single adult operating on an ALICE “survival budget” makes an hourly wage of $9.23, or $18,468 a year, whereas a household of two adults and two school-age children must make $21.33 an hour or $42,660 a year, according to the report.

The report calculates that financial stability in McLennan County would translate into a single adult household earning $15.08 an hour, or $30,156 a year. A household with two adults and two school-age children would need to earn $83,028 a year, according to the report.

United Ways of Texas image 

A new study by the United Ways of Texas calculates that financial stability in McLennan County would translate into a single adult household earning $15.08 an hour, or $30,156 a year. A household with two adults and two school-age children would need to earn $83,028 a year, according to the report.

In 2016, there were 247,934 people living in McLennan County, representing 87,163 households, with a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, according to the report. The median household income was $46,860, compared to the state average of $56,565, according to the report.

Compared to McLennan County’s 44 percent of households in 2016 who lived in poverty or ALICE status, Bell County had 41 percent; Bexar had 51 percent; Harris had 43 percent; Jefferson had 45 percent; Lubbock had 42 percent; and Frio County had 72 percent of households.

The report documents the increase in the basic cost of living, the decrease in the availability of jobs that can support household necessities, and the shortage of affordable housing in areas where higher-paying jobs are located.

The 135-page report tracked Texas households before and after the recession between 2007 to 2010, and then during the recovery through 2016. The total number of Texas households increased 22 percent from 2007 to 2016, reflecting the state’s position as a population growth leader.

Mosacchio argued that the federal poverty line is an outdated calculation and no longer provides accurate information about the number of people facing hardship across the country.

Mosacchio said the agency, along with its community and state partners, will use the data to inform programmatic and policy solutions for McLennan County households and communities.

The ALICE Reports use new measures to provide a more accurate picture of financial insecurity at the state, county, and municipal level, she said. The project began as a pilot program in New Jersey and has expanded to include 18 states, which represent nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.

The local numbers weren’t surprising to those who work with struggling households, Mosacchio said.

“For those of us inside this work, inside the fence of understanding poverty, it’s not startling,” she said. “It’s important that the rest of the community, our community leaders, the people who contribute to our campaign, work collaboratively with us, understand just how significant this problem is.”

Mosacchio said the report gives the agency a baseline to work from. The nonprofit will compile the data so it’s defined by ZIP codes and other measures to allow program progress to be measured, she said.

“We are grateful to our state association, United Ways of Texas, for helping us to create awareness and inform our local community about ALICE,” she said.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Tyler Freeman, 25, does a nose grab as he takes advantage of the nice weather to skateboard at the Sul Ross Skate Park. After a high of 69 Monday, temperatures were forecast to drop to 29 degrees overnight, with winds of up to 25 mph.

editor's pick
Baylor's Men for Change confronts toxic masculinity, harmful stereotypes
 Phillip Ericksen  / 

A group of Baylor University men is looking to confront harmful stereotypes that have seeped into how men see themselves, others and the world.

Men for Change, an organization comprised of both Baylor staff members and students, offers presentations, panel discussions and mentoring sessions on the topics of active spirituality, healthy relationships and masculinity that encourages healthy expression and clear dialogue.

Baylor officials in spiritual life, multicultural affairs and the counseling center collaborated to form the organization three years ago, at a time when the university was forced to acknowledge its widespread failure in responding to reports of sexual violence, particularly stemming from the football team.

Josh Ritter, the assistant director of spirituality and public life, said the group seeks to shed light on sexual assault and toxic masculinity, a term researchers find speaks to emotion suppression, appearance of hardness and the connection between violence and power.

“Toxic masculinity is an ideology, and ideologies typically function when they’re invisible,” Ritter said. “So if you reveal an ideology to the conscious mind, then people are going to react against it because that’s the default operating system that people are comfortable with. And if you question the default operating system, then people are going to get immediately reactionary to it.”

Just this month, the American Psychological Association released the first-ever guidelines for professionals working with men and boys. Traditional masculinity, the research shows, is marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression” and is “on the whole, harmful.”

On the pop culture front, a viral Gillette ad dramatized how society condones violence by the dismissive phrase, “boys will be boys.”

David Copeland, who works in the department of health, human performance and recreation, said the group supports the ad and its goal of encouraging conversation around the issues.

“We’re pretty supportive of the message that is being presented, with men being accountable to other men and calling men to be something more, something better,” Copeland said.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Baylor University students walk the campus on Monday.

Men for Change at Baylor has about 30 members who serve as mentors to Baylor students, Ritter said. The work team, comprised of about eight staff members, presents to students at male residence halls and hosts panel discussions. Much of their message is based on the book, “Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality,” a 1991 bestseller by the Christian writer and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr.

A group has also begun presenting to male students at The Cove, a nonprofit that provides a positive environment for homeless youth and is partially funded by the city of Waco, Baylor and other institutions and corporations.

The APA research notes that in 2018, 95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men, and 81 percent of the 115th Congress, which began in 2017, was male.

It also says that men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide, according to the APA. Boys and men of color are also more likely to struggle with mental health concerns.

Men for Change also seeks to be an advocacy group. It released a statement condemning the plea agreement for Jacob Anderson, the former Baylor fraternity president who was accused of sexual assault but did not stand trial after accepting an agreement that called for a $400 fine, counseling and no jail time.

“We’re really interested in disrupting this power dynamic that says that men are supposed to be powerful and dominant over women, which is not OK,” Ritter said.

Sara Perry, an associate professor of management at Baylor, runs the local chapter of IF: Baylor, a Christian ministry that seeks to connect women beyond denomination and age. The group has partnered with Men for Change on some events.

“Providing opportunities for men to have those conversations is really helpful,” Perry said. “I just think men are less likely to do that informally or on their own. In that way, having male voice behind some of those issues that seem divisive between men and women, but to have men stand up and talk about ‘what they mean by that,’ and how they view healthy masculinity, I think that’s really beneficial for everyone.”

'Catch-up for years' as backlogged immigration courts open

NEW YORK — The nation’s immigration courts were severely backlogged even before the government shutdown. Now it could take years just to deal with the delays caused by the five-week impasse, attorneys say.

With the shutdown finally over, the courts reopened Monday morning to immigrants seeking asylum or otherwise trying to stave off deportation, and hearings were held for the first time since late December. Court clerks scrambled to deal with boxes and boxes of legal filings that arrived after the doors opened.

Over 86,000 immigration court hearings were canceled during the standoff, the biggest number in California, followed by Texas and New York, according to an estimate from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. It estimates the courts have more than 800,000 pending cases overall.

The shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall to keep out migrants has only added to the delays in the system, where cases can take years to be resolved, said Jennifer Williams, deputy attorney in charge of the immigration law unit at Legal Aid in New York City.

“They’re going to be playing catch-up for years,” she said.

The shutdown did not affect hearings for immigrants being held in immigration detention. It also had no bearing on applications for green cards and U.S. citizenship, which are handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and are funded by filing fees.

The cancellations were bad news for the many asylum applicants who have been waiting years to win approval so that they can bring loved ones to this country.

It could be years before they are given new court dates, attorneys said.

But for those with weak asylum cases, the cancellations could be a good thing, enabling them to keep on living in the U.S. and fend off deportation for now.

A spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the part of the Justice Department that oversees the immigration courts, could not immediately say how many hearings were delayed or when they would be rescheduled to take place.

At an immigration court in San Francisco, attorneys and paralegals carrying large bags, small suitcases or boxes stacked on a dolly waited in line to file documents that in some cases had piled up during the shutdown.

Attorney Sara Izadpanah said six of her clients missed court hearings because of the shutdown and she missed several deadlines to file court documents.

“What happened is pretty serious for a lot of our clients because it could be two or three years before they can get a new court hearing, and by then immigrations law could change,” Izadphana said.

featurededitor's pick
Waco gains another intellectual property law firm
 Tommy Witherspoon  / 

Another large Texas law firm is hoping to take advantage of Waco’s budding prospects for becoming a hotbed for patent cases by opening an office in Waco.

Officials with Gray Reed, a 140-lawyer firm with offices in Houston and Dallas, say the firm expects to better serve its Waco-based clients, build on its strong ties to Waco and handle the expected surge of intellectual property (IP) cases expected to be filed in the Western District of Texas.

“Waco was the obvious choice for Gray Reed’s third office,” Dallas managing partner Andy Meyercord said. “Many of our attorneys and clients have deep roots in Waco, and we look forward to serving the community and the Western District of Texas.”

Waco is part of the federal Western District of Texas, which stretches from El Paso to Del Rio and includes other federal courts in Alpine, Austin, Midland-Odessa, Pecos and San Antonio.

Waco attorney and Baylor Law Professor David Henry will work in the new Waco office, which will temporarily be located in the National Lloyds Building in downtown Waco but is expected to move to the Texas Life Insurance Co. building, 900 Washington Ave., later this year.

Henry, group leader of the Gray Reed IP litigation practice, has said he expects Waco’s federal court to become the new hot spot for patent cases because of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires patent cases to be filed in the district in which defendants are established or have a regular place of business.

Also, Henry said, Waco is in the same federal district as Austin, a target-rich environment for patent infringement lawsuits because of its large concentration of high-tech companies. In addition, U.S. District Judge Alan Albright, appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as judge of Waco’s federal court, has more than 20 years specializing in IP law and is welcoming IP cases to be filed in his court.

“Our IP team is already entrenched in Waco, so Judge Albright’s arrival creates a tremendous opportunity for our firm to grow our IP practice, and having a Waco office allows us to better serve our existing clients in the region,” Henry said.

Since Albright took the bench in September, 10 patent cases were filed in Waco’s federal court in a single week. That compares to fewer than 10 patent cases that had been filed in Waco in the decades since the court’s creation, said Henry, who is one of Waco’s few patent attorneys and who has taught patent law and litigation at the Baylor University Law School for 25 years.

Besides Henry, who recently was appointed director for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s IP Clinic program at Baylor Law School, Pat Souter and Alex Uber will be based in Waco or work regularly from the Waco office, according to a Gray Reed statement.

Souter is board certified in health law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a professor of healthcare studies at Baylor Law School, where he oversees the healthcare law program and teaches healthcare law, healthcare fraud and abuse and regulation of healthcare professionals.

Uber is a registered patent attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and also specializes in all aspects of IP Law, the Gray Reed release says.

Gray Reed would be the second large IP firm to open a Waco office since Albright was appointed. Patterson + Sheridan, with 80 lawyers in eight offices in California, North Carolina and New Jersey, opened an office in Waco earlier this month and hired former McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna to work there.

Henry said with the opening of Gray Reed’s office in Waco, it will bring expertise and a specialized practice that typically was not offered in Waco before, such as major mergers and acquisitions, tax law and IP law.