Middlesex United Way: 1 in 3 Connecticut residents can’t afford basic necessities
More families in Connecticut are facing financial hardship, according to the 2018 ALICE Report released this month by Connecticut United Ways. The update to the original ALICE Report, which released in 2014, and again in 2016, reveals that more than 1 in 3 Connecticut residents are struggling to afford their basic needs.
ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, is defined as individuals or families who have earnings above the federal poverty level, but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. Despite working hard at often more than one job, these households struggle to make ends meet.
The updated 2018 Connecticut United Way’s ALICE Report documents the challenges facing ALICE families throughout our state, and identifies trends that affect ALICE’s ability to achieve financial security. In Middlesex County, there are 16,834 households who fall under the ALICE criteria, approximately 25 percent of all Middlesex County households.
One of these trends discovered is that even though Connecticut may be known as a state with one of the highest “per capita” incomes, the fastest growing jobs right now are the ones with the lowest pay. Also, there has been a rise in what is being called the “gig economy” — short-term site-specific jobs that are have limited job security, few or no benefits, fluctuating hours and unreliable wages. These trends are significantly impacting our state’s residents, and leading to more and more ALICE households.
ALICE families often make too much money to be eligible for many social assistance programs, yet make too little to get by comfortably, and are forced to make sacrifices that can have long-term consequences.
Many ALICE families will opt to eat meals based on price rather than nutrition. Many will avoid going to the doctor or dentist for preventative visits, as they fear being unable to cover their medical bills. Some families will have a parent stay home, rather than work, because the cost of child care makes working unrealistic.
These sacrifices often hurt the family in the long run, but are often the only option. I encourage you to put yourself in ALICE’s shoes, and see the decisions they are faced to make daily. Visit makingtoughchoices.org to take part in a survey to experience this harsh reality.
This is why we at Middlesex United Way make it our mission to help any and everyone who are facing these challenges, whether it is education, income, health or housing. We support local organizations that focus on helping our neighbors through these trying times, and we are always looking for more help.
How can you help? You can raise awareness about ALICE among businesses, community events, and by speaking with government leaders. You can also support community efforts aimed at helping ALICE households pursue career advancement and handle basic needs emergencies, involving food, shelter, utilities and emergency funds.
If you would like to volunteer, contact us at 860-346-8695, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at middlesexunitedway.org. We have recently created a service that allows you to indicate the type of work you would like to do, and will pair you with a deserving organization who needs a little extra help, doing activities such as volunteering through reading/ literacy programs, mentoring, helping with after-school support, and/or volunteering at a local food pantry.
We all know ALICE, whether she is a friend, neighbor or family member. ALICE cares for our children and aging parents, fixes our cars, and works in our local grocery stores, retail stores and restaurants. ALICE lives in every town and city in Connecticut. If you can, please help us in our mission to help ALICE.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middletown-based Middlesex United Way.