When the holidays get started in earnest next week, the town will again embark on a season of heightened sensibilities with a celebration of Thanksgiving. Elsewhere, the fulsome holiday spectacle of twinkling lights and jingling cash registers seems to go a little farther over the top with every passing year. But in Newtown the sense of what we have, etched as it is in high relief by what we have lost, has an authentic value worthy of our deepest thanks. It is this extra awareness of the fragile boundary between having and not having that made a report this week by the United Way of Connecticut about the extent of economic suffering in this affluent state, county, and town so unsettling.
The United Way reported that a quarter of the households in the state, while living above the official federal poverty level, are still unable to afford the basic living expenses in Connecticut. This economically stressed population has been christened ALICE (Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) by the United Way. Including those officially identified as impoverished, 35 percent of the households in Connecticut are living below this critical ALICE threshold, where choices must be made every month about which bills not to pay. The numbers are not that much better in Newtown. About one in five local households (19 percent) fall short of the ALICE threshold.
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