United Way brings ALICE to forefront


NAUGATUCK — The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls is looking out for ALICE in a new initiative.

ALICE isn’t a specific person, but rather a specific group of people. It’s an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed — people who are working and make too much money to qualify for federal assistance programs, but not enough to pay for basic needs.

“It’s important to focus on this segment of the population because the resources are limited. … If you fall in that ALICE — where you’re making money but not enough — something’s going to have to give,” United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy said.

United Ways in Connecticut were part of a six-state collaboration of United Ways, along with California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey, studying why working people still struggle to make ends meet. The ALICE study, conducted by Rutgers University, found one in five households was living on ALICE income in two thirds of American cities and towns.

In Connecticut, the study found, one in four households exceeds the federal poverty level in earnings, but still makes less than the basic cost of living.

According to the report, the cost of living for a Connecticut family of four is $64,689. The report states that more than half the jobs in Connecticut pay less than $20 per hour.

According to the study, 29 percent, or 4,248, of the households in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls are considered ALICE.

Shappy said the United Way is turning its focus to ALICE because the needs are still high.

“There are still a large number of people who still need services, and its mostly basic needs,” she said.

Although the country is coming out of the recession and the job market is improving, Shappy said, the number of families struggling isn’t dropping.

“The people who are back to work are not making what they used to make,” she said.

Shappy said the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls is going to review the programs it funds to see if they align with assisting ALICE.

“We are funding programs that help with basic needs,” she said. “However we want to see if we can look at what we’re funding and if we need to put more dollars towards it or if we need to look at other opportunities in the community to collaborate with.”

Shappy continued, “I don’t want the report to just sit. If we can do more work in our communities of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls than it will only enhance that impact that we’ll have on the community.”

The hope, she said, is that the focus on ALICE will reduce the percentage of households struggling. Though she knows it’s going to take time.

“I hope that in the long term that we could expand on programs so that that percentage can drop,” Shappy said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. With any kind of initiative like this it takes time. I think the [United Way Board of Directors] is behind it and now we just need to get the information out to the stakeholders in the community.”

To view the ALICE report for Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, visit alice.ctunitedway.org/meetalice/uwnbf.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.