Has there been a time in your life when you struggled to make ends meet? When you avoided your landlord or carefully planned when to pay a credit card bill and when to pay your electric bill? For some of us, this may have been our life after we got our first job or had our first child. But for many Connecticut families, the stress of living paycheck to paycheck is their life day after day, month after month and year after year.
In a report published last week, Connecticut United Ways and Rutgers University found that despite working hard, 25% of Connecticut households earn above the federal poverty line but under a basic cost-of-living threshold defined in the report. We call these households ALICE, – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed - and their number is more than double the number of Connecticut households living in poverty. Combined with those in poverty, 35% of Connecticut households can’t afford the basics of housing, food, health care, childcare, and transportation. In Middlesex County, 25% of families can’t afford the basics, with 5% in poverty and another 20% under the ALICE threshold.
The federal poverty threshold for a family of four is about $24,000, yet this does not even begin to reflect the cost of living in Connecticut. The minimum cost of basic necessities like housing, food, health care, childcare, and transportation will run a family of four $64,689 a year, yet 51% of all Connecticut jobs pay less than $20 an hour—or slightly more than $40,000 annually. Housing and childcare costs alone make up 49% of a basic household budget for a family of four.
From the teacher at your son’s childcare center to the bookkeeper in your office, ALICE does vital work that keeps our community strong and thriving. Yet barriers beyond their control frustrate ALICE’s ability to become financially stable. This instability has consequences for all of us.
In the coming months, Connecticut’s United Ways will begin a statewide dialogue on the issues facing ALICE and solutions that can make a difference. Visit http://alice.ctunitedway.org to download the ALICE Report. For data specific to Middlesex County, see page 101 of the report.