Blog Archives

Middlesex United Way: Shoreline Basic Needs Task Force and ALICE

By Kevin Wilhelm May 26, 2017

The Shoreline Basic Needs Task Force, founded in 2012, is a group made up of like-minded volunteers representing all backgrounds, such as local nonprofits, businesses, faith-based organizations, concerned citizens and community leaders.

This past year, the Shoreline Basic Needs Task Force chose the ALICE Report as its 2016 Awareness Campaign. As many of you know, ALICE, a United Way acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, represents individuals and households who are working but have difficulty affording the necessities of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation.

In 2014, Connecticut United Ways and Rutgers University developed the first ALICE report after completing studies on this hidden population. ALICE households in Connecticut make up about 27 percent of all households in the state, in addition to the 11 percent of Connecticut households that are in poverty.

In Middlesex County, 22 percent of households are ALICE, and 8 percent are in poverty.

While these households do not fall under the official federal poverty level, they make too little to afford necessities, including decent housing. Many times, the ALICE population is referred to as the “working poor.” In most family budgets, housing is the largest and least flexible expense.

In Middlesex County, 22 percent of homeowners and 40 percent of renters are under extreme housing burdens, meaning they pay more than 35 percent of their income on housing. A single adult will pay an average of $749 a month for housing, and a family of four will pay an average of $1,170 a month. Affordable housing is defined as housing, either ownership or rental, for which a household will pay under 30 percent of its gross annual income.

Continue reading: Middletown Press

Affordable housing: The key to healthy communities

By Lisa Tepper Bates and David Rich April 27, 2017

Expanding Connecticut’s stock of affordable housing is a smart solution to an important problem our state faces. Connecticut is the sixth most expensive state for housing. Nearly 50% of all Connecticut renters (250,000 people) pay more than is affordable (30% of their income) on housing. A growing body of research attests to the fact that safe and stable housing is the fundamental basis for a healthy and productive life. Children do not learn well if they lack a stable home. Adults are less able to be productive, and more likely to be ill, if they lack adequate housing. Our communities pay over and over through our public systems for these negative side effects of a lack of affordable housing. In these tight fiscal times, we cannot afford wasteful public spending. We can help solve this problem by increasing the stock of affordable housing through inclusionary zoning.

The pivotal importance of housing as the launchpad for a productive, healthy life is not just about our most vulnerable population facing homelessness. According to the United Way of Connecticut’s ALICE study, 38% of Connecticut households either live in absolute poverty (11%) or under the threshold of “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” (27%). These ALICE households have earnings above the federal poverty level but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. And among the greatest costs they face every month? Housing.

Continue reading: Stratford Star

United Way of Middlesex County President and CEO, Kevin Wilhelm, talks about ALICE Families, VITA and EARN

May 2017

Watch this video at Comcast Newsmakers

Free Money, Enrichment Scholarships Offered To Newtown ALICE Families

By John Voket April 4, 2017

Are you living in a Newtown ALICE household? If so, Newtown Social Services may have some free money for you. ALICE, as identified by United Way agencies, is Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — basically a paycheck to paycheck household that may be one major car repair, illness, or other family crisis away from financial trouble. By technical definition, ALICE is a way of defining and understanding our families, neighbors, and colleagues (men and women) who work hard, earn above the federal poverty level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.

The United Way ALICE Project is a collaborative effort to improve the lives of vulnerable, low-income ALICE households. Based on the overwhelming success of the research in identifying and communicating the needs of ALICE households, the project has grown from a pilot in Morris County, N.J., in 2007, to the entire state of New Jersey in 2012, and to the national level in 2014 with reports in six states representing one-quarter of the US population.

The partners in this grassroots effort are working together to give ALICE a national voice. By sharing common language and understanding, stakeholders are better equipped to tackle crucial issues for ALICE and the wider community.

Continue reading The Newtown Bee

Middlesex United Way: New EARN savings program available

By Kevin Wilhelm March 31, 2017

They say habits, either good or bad, can be formed in as little time as 30 days. At Middlesex United Way, we are excited to unveil our new partnership that helps lower-income families develop new savings habits that can last a lifetime. Middlesex United Way, along with other Connecticut United Ways across the state, are partnering with EARN, a San Francisco- based nonprofit organization. The purpose of the new partnership is to continue in our fight to helping the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population by bringing an easy to use, matched savings program.

In 2014, Connecticut United Ways and Rutgers University found that despite their efforts, 25 percent of Connecticut households who earn above the federal poverty line still live under a basic cost-of-living threshold defined in the report. We define these households as ALICE, – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE households, combined with those in poverty, comprise 38 percent of Connecticut households, revealing that more than 1 in 3 Connecticut households can’t afford the basics of housing, food, healthcare, childcare, and transportation.

To be defined as ALICE, you must be asset limited. Thirty-nine percent of Connecticut households lack the liquid assets necessary to survive a financial emergency. This means that an unexpected hospital trip or car repairs can have the potential to devastate an ALICE household. Sadly, it is often these unexpected expenses that lead to further financial hardships for these families.

Continue reading: The Middletown Press

Incentive to Save- New program promises reward for families meeting six-month goal

By Rob Ryser March 26, 2017

A new program to help Connecticut working families struggling to make ends meet start savings accounts promises a $60 reward if they save for six months. It may not sound like a lot of money, but it might be just the incentive some families need to start saving, sponsors of the incentive said last week. “If you have a savings account and you have a flat tire or dental emergency or a thousand other things, you can pay for it,” said Shana Beal, director of communications for EARN, a nonprofit that has teamed up with Connecticut United Ways to launch the savings initiative statewide.

The initiative is part of the United Way of Connecticut’s response to a special category of working families who earn more than the federal poverty limit of $24,000, but less than the $70,000 to afford housing, food, child care, health care and transportation. Known by the acronym ALICE, for asset-limited, income constrained and employed, the families represent 27 percent of the state population, United Way said.

Continue reading: The News-Times

Connecticut United Ways Announce Partnership to Help ALICE® Households Build Emergency Savings

March 28,2017

Connecticut United Ways are partnering with a San Francisco based nonprofit organization called EARN to bring a matched savings program to ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households in the State of Connecticut. The EARN Starter Savings Program is a six-month matched savings program in which individuals earning no more than 80% of the median household income in their region agree to save at least $20 per month and in return earn $10 in matched savings. At the end of program, they will have built up at least $180 worth of emergency savings. EARN reports that 80% of graduates from the Starter Savings Program continue to save beyond the six months of the program.

Savings is a core component of financial health. A savings habit – and the stability it brings – is as important as income. Savings address financial instability by providing a way for families to save for short-term emergencies and long-term assets, like a college education or a home. Lack of savings is the financial challenge American families’ worry about the most. In fact, one in three households nationwide have no savings. Community conversations held by United Ways across Connecticut with ALICE households echo this struggle.

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We need to change the conversation about poverty and inequality. It starts with compassion and kindness.

By Karen Weese March 10,2014; Republished March 14, 2017

Nicole Larson was the kind of person whose smile always made you want to smile back. It was only after a while that it struck you: She always smiled with her mouth closed.

It had been six years since Nicole last sat in a dentist’s chair, seven since her last full exam or X-rays. Childhood dental visits had been rare: Her parents’ low-wage jobs never had insurance, and after paying for rent and heat and food, there was rarely much left. As an adult, she worked long hours as a waitress and hotel housekeeper, but those jobs lacked insurance, too, and the meager pay always ran out before the month did.

Nicole learned to white-knuckle it through toothaches, popping handfuls of ibuprofen. She brushed constantly, rinsing with every oral rinse the drugstore sold. And she perfected a dimpled, twinkle-in-the-eye smile that always got a smile in return … but didn’t require her to open her mouth.

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United Ways Release 2016 ALICE® Multi-State Comparison of Financial Hardship

January 19, 2017

In 2016, United Ways in Connecticut, released their 2nd state-specific ALICE Report. ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) is a household with income above the Federal Poverty Level but below a basic cost-of-living Household Survival Budget. A new ALICE Multi-State Comparison, compares data across 13 states: Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, and analyzes trends effecting ALICE across the nation.

ALICE lives and works in every town and city in Connecticut. The recently released ALICE Multi-State Comparison, reports that of the 38 million households studied across 13 states, 40 percent were living below the ALICE threshold. The 2016 Connecticut ALICE Update Report revealed that 27 percent (up from 25 percent in 2014) of households in Connecticut have earnings above the federal poverty level but below what it costs to afford basic necessities such as housing, food, child care, health care and transportation. When combined with the 11 percent of households living in poverty; more than 1 in 3 (38 percent) of Connecticut households are struggling to get by.

Continue reading: Connecticut Council for Philanthropy
Read the full 2016 ALICE Multi-State Comparison

Equality means dignity: Report highlights how working Americans struggle

By Ali Solis and Eileen Fitzgerald January 23, 2017

This week we celebrated the contributions of a great American Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The United Way’s
recently released ALICE report raises the question of whether Dr. King’s Dreams for America are achievable in
today’s society. The movement that Dr. King led was not only inspirational, but it was essential. We know that his
voice is stilled today, but we must continue to heed his message.

United Way’s ALICE Report provides a comprehensive look at working families who are struggling financially in 13
states, and found that at least 31 percent of households in each state could not afford basic needs such as housing,
child care, food, health care, and transportation in 2014.

While there are many households across the country that are living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), there
are a significant number of households who qualify as, what United Way has deemed, “ALICE” – Asset Limited,
Income Constrained, and Employed.

The report collected and analyzed data from 13 states (Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana,
Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin) and determined that millions of
working Americans are struggling and unable to live a life of dignity. It is important to note that there are 8.5 million
renters with incomes below the ALICE threshold, yet there are fewer than 5.6 million available rental homes –
subsidized and market rate – that these households can afford without being severely cost-burdened. That is a gap
of 3 million homes.

Continue reading: The Hill

Read the complete 2016 ALICE Multi-State Comparison