Middlesex United Way: Proposed legislation could help state's ALICE population

MIDDLETOWN — This past week, key Connecticut legislators, including state Sen. Martin Looney and state Reps. Sean Scanlon and Brandon McGee, highlighted concrete steps Connecticut can take to better support Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed families now, and going forward.
They also discussed how proposed legislation can help stabilize our state’s ALICE population. At Middlesex United Way, the ALICE population is a demographic we need to serve, as they are often the most vulnerable, especially in times of crisis or uncertainty.
According to the 2020 updated ALICE Report, a study of financial hardship within working families, the report concludes that before the onset of the pandemic, 38 percent of Connecticut’s households lacked the income to pay for necessities, such as housing, food, child care, health care, technology and transportation. It goes without saying that this pandemic has certainly not made things any easier.
In Middlesex County, 14,778 households fall under the ALICE criteria, approximately 25 percent of all Middlesex County households.
Despite working hard and holding important jobs across our state, ALICE households — 33 percent of whom are families with children — are unable to keep pace with the high cost of living in Connecticut. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts exposed the financial fragility of ALICE households, and made their struggle harder still.
This virtual event featured a keynote by Bryce Covert, contributing oped writer at the New York Times, and an important perspective from Melissia Stanley, program director at the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford, who knows what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck. “Our state has seen firsthand what happens when families that are living on the edge suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them,” Stanley said.
“ALICE households are experts at managing their household budgets and finding creative ways, like I did, to support their families. But when you live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to save, any loss in income or additional expense can send your finances spiraling,” Stanley said.
These concrete steps include increasing Connecticut’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 23 percent to 40 percent, and creating a state Child Tax Credit which will lead to the largest tax cut for working families with children in Connecticut history. Combined, these policies will help more than 1 million people in Connecticut.
Households of color are disproportionately represented in the ALICE population, with 57 percent of Black households and 63 percent of Hispanic households living below the threshold.
“I believe in trickle-up economics,” Scanlon said. “If we put money in the pockets of the people who need it most, they spend it, they go to work and they move up. If we can make Connecticut a more affordable state for the middle and working class, I believe that we can grow Connecticut in the way that we want to see it grow.”
When positive legislative action like this is made, our neighbors and fellow Middlesex County residents all have a better chance to keep their head above water.
We all know ALICE residents without often realizing it. ALICE is the CNA helping our aging parents and grandparents, the essential worker stocking the shelves at the grocery store, or the bus driver bringing our children to school.
To learn more about the ALICE population in Middlesex County or about how you can get involved, please contact Christina Heckart at Christina.heckart@middlesexunitedway.org.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.