Report: 38 Percent of Connecticut Residents Can’t Meet Basic Needs
The latest, updated “ALICE Report,” released today, found that “there are higher numbers of people and families that are not reaching that survival budget,” said Jennifer Health, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Greater New Haven.
The percentage of people who don’t make enough to pay for an “annual survival budget” is now 38 percent, the report found.
The figure is nearly twice that in some Connecticut cities, the report found.
“There are a lot of people out there who are working really hard but still struggling to pay the bills for the family,” Heath said. “It’s not just a problem that’s a city problem. It’s not just one part of the state” and the people who are struggling “are our family and friends and neighbors.”
For Heath, none of this is unexpected.
“The recovery has been so uneven ... and the jobs that have come back or have been created aren’t paying as well ... So, no, it doesn’t actually surprise me,” she said.
The latest report takes a snapshot of the situation as of 2014, updating the picture conveyed by the first ALICE Report, which focused on the way things were in 2012.
The updated report found that 38 percent of Connecticut households were struggling financially and could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care and transportation in 2014, including both households living below the federal poverty level, or FPL, and those living above it who still struggle.
The latter group has been dubbed “ALICE” — short for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”
Households below poverty line back to top
The updated ALICE Report found that 65 percent of the households in New Haven were either below the poverty line or fit the definition for ALICE, compared to 74 percent in Hartford, 63 percent in both Bridgeport and Waterbury, 55 percent in New London, 52 percent in Meriden, 42 percent in Danbury and 35 percent in Stamford.
Of New Haven’s suburbs, West Haven was highest at 53 percent, compared to 44 percent in East Haven, 39 percent in Hamden, 37 percent in Branford, 34 percent in Wallingford, 32 percent in Milford and 27 percent in Shelton.
Elsewhere in the state, Middletown and Torrington were 36 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
The biggest change from 2012 to 2014 was a significant drop in spending for health care, which still equaled three-quarters of all government and nonprofit spending, the report found
The official U.S. poverty line is $11,170 for a single adult and $24,250 for a family of four.
Researchers found that 11 percent of Connecticut’s 1.36 million households, or 143,172, were living in poverty and another 27 percent, of 361,521, fit the definition of ALICE. Almost half of all jobs in the state paid less than $20 per hour, with two thirds of those jobs paying between $10 and $15 per hour.
The cost of basic household expenses increased steadily throughout Connecticut between 2007 and 2014 — 14 percent on average — and the average annual “household survival budget” for a Connecticut family of four ranged from $66,168 to $73,716, more than triple the U.S. family poverty rate of $23,850.
Public and private assistance available in Connecticut, which supplements the income earned by needier households, supplied 11.9 percent of the income that would be needed for all households to reach the ALICE threshold, the report found.
Among the trends the report identified that could change the economic picture for ALICE families was that the Connecticut population is aging — and many seniors do not have the resources they need to support themselves — there are continued disparities with regard to race and ethnicity and low-wage jobs are projected to grow faster than higher-wage jobs over the next decade.
In addition, technology is changing the workplace, creating some new jobs, replacing other jobs and changing where and what hours people work, as well as the skills they need.
So what can people do?
“I think that there are things that people can do to help,” said Heath. “They can give” to organizations that help smooth out the bumps for the poor.
A longer-term strategy is for society and state government to continue to work on ways to provide affordable housing and affordable childcare — two of the most significant expenses Connecticut families face — she said.
A third thing people can do is to volunteer for programs that help those who are struggling, such as volunteer tax preparers, Heath said.
To help people better understand the kinds of difficult choices struggling families often face, the United Way has created a website with a simulator at www.makingtoughchoices.org.