ALICE represents the men and women in Connecticut’s households of all ages and races who get up each day to go to work, but who aren’t sure if they’ll be able to make ends meet. ALICE is our co-workers, friends, and neighbors. ALICE does essential work that we depend on, and contributes to our community’s well-being.
ALICE: A STUDY OF THE MANY HARD WORKING, LOW-INCOME PEOPLE IN CONNECTICUT
In the fall of 2014, Connecticut United Ways released the first statewide ALICE Report, a data-driven, comprehensive research project that quantifies the situation confronting many low-income working families across our state – in our urban, suburban and rural communities. The initial ALICE reported aimed to “put a face” on working families in Connecticut. The 2014 ALICE Report served as a call to action for Connecticut United Ways as it revealed that that the number of Connecticut households unable to afford life’s basic necessities far exceeds the official federal poverty statistics. This demographic is known as ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
The recently released 2016 ALICE Update Report focuses on what has changed for ALICE households. Unfortunately, more families continue to struggle to make ends meet; the household survival budget continues to increase; and, wages are not keep up with the cost of living in our state. The ALICE Update reinforces that ALICE is not isolated to an area code, age, gender or ethnicity. Families and individuals living in every town and city across the state are struggling financially and faced with difficult financial decision every day. Despite working hard, ALICE households are not able to afford basic necessities such as the housing, child care, transportation, healthcare and food.
The 2016 ALICE Update Report also identifies new trends that are impacting ALICE in the workplace. Advances in technology are creating new job possibilities for ALICE workers as well as threatening existing jobs. Currently, 5 percent (68,000) of Connecticut workers are employed in the technology sector. The increase in on-demand or project-to-project jobs has given rise to the “gig economy.” While these on-demand positions may create new employment opportunities, they offer ALICE workers limited job security, no benefits, fluctuating hours and unreliable wages.
ALICE’s vulnerability to financial shock is another trend identified in the 2016 ALICE Report. Asset limited is a defining characteristic of ALICE. Thirty-nine percent of households lack the liquid assets necessary to survive a financial shock. This vulnerability means that a medical emergency or unexpected car repair has the potential to cripple an ALICE household.
The 2016 ALICE Update Report shines a light on the challenges facing people who play a vital role in preserving our state’s overall social and economic well-being. While it is true that ALICE has existed long before this study, the Report provides a framework that goes beyond the data and demographics that quantify ALICE households, and allows us to meaningfully discuss solutions that make it easier for ALICE to get by and get ahead.
TOO MANY HOUSEHOLDS LIVE PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK
The ALICE Report goes beyond existing measures of poverty to reveal how financial hardship affects people we know and depend on in every community. There are hundreds of thousands of ALICE households in Connecticut – households with income above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but below a basic cost-of-living threshold.
The challenges ALICE faces are not rooted in the attitudes and behaviors of individuals or families. While each ALICE household has its own unique circumstances, the Report identifies two primary systemic social and economic challenges affecting ALICE in our state and across the country: a high cost of living and the need for more family sustaining employment.
For a family of four to cover all of the costs in the Household Survival Budget, their annual income would need to be more than double the U.S. poverty threshold of $23,850. Even with one of the highest median hourly wages in the country, there are still many jobs in Connecticut that pay less than $20/hour ($40,000/year if full time). ALICE does essential work in our community – such as child care, health care, security, and retail services – yet struggles to make ends meet on the income these jobs provide.
HOW CONNECTICUT UNITED WAYS ARE HELPING ALICE AND STRENGTHENING OUR COMMUNITIES
We all have a vested interest in improving conditions for ALICE. Just as effects of ALICE households’ everyday hardships ripple throughout our communities, so too will the effects of helping ALICE get ahead. Through our work on Education, Income, Health, and Basic Needs/2-1-1, Connecticut United Ways are helping ALICE—and everyone in the community—improve their lives.
Expanded opportunities for high-quality education will ensure academic and career success for children in ALICE households. United Ways invest in programs that improve school readiness, ensure early grade reading proficiency and middle grade success, support on-time high school graduation, and increase access to college and career training.
United Ways help ALICE increase earnings with career advancement opportunities through targeted sector-based training initiatives. United Ways also provide income support through volunteer income tax assistance (VITA), raising awareness of EITC and Child Tax Credits, coordinating volunteer budget coaching programs, and promoting asset-building strategies.
Good health is the foundation upon which better educational outcomes, improved job performance and long-term financial stability are built for ALICE and for all of us. United Ways promote access to health care and healthy living programs to reduce childhood obesity and increase knowledge of healthy food choices. United Ways support early screening programs for children to identify developmental and social/emotional concerns and strengthen follow-up referrals for services.
Connecticut United Ways coordinate efforts and investments that help ALICE and others in our communities meet their basic needs through mobile food pantries and other initiatives to increase food security and by committing to 10 year plans to end homelessness and to promote affordable housing. United Way 2-1-1 provides free, around-the-clock access point to information about critical health and human services programs for everyone in the state.
|ABOUT THE ALICE PROJECT
In 2014 Connecticut joined with five other states (California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, and New Jersey) to release their first statewide ALICE Report. Upon the release of the 2016 ALICE Update Report, 15 states had joined the ALICE movement and were working towards releasing ALICE Reports in their respective states. The Connecticut ALICE Report’s are sponsored by the sixteen Connecticut United Ways.