United Way of Greater Waterbury

Shares Critical Data on the Financial Health of Working Residents


WATERBURY, CT The ranks of Greater Waterbury households unable to afford the basics is significant, according to a new report from United Way of Greater Waterbury and its research partner United For ALICE. The ALICE Essentials Index, which measures change over time in the cost of household essentials, projects an 18.2% increase statewide in basic costs from 2021 to 2023 (before taxes). For households in the United Way of Greater Waterbury region, depending on available tax credits, this could be as high as $38,600 for a single individual and $128,000 for a family of four.

These families, defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), earn above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what’s needed to survive in the modern economy. ALICE families have been overlooked and undercounted by traditional poverty measures. ALICE is the nation’s childcare workers, home health aides and cashiers heralded during the pandemic – those working low-wage jobs, with little or no savings and one emergency away from poverty.

ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Connecticut shows that the total number of financially insecure households in Connecticut rose by 11% between 2019 and 2021 – lmost triple the 4% increase in the state’s overall population.

In fact, Connecticut ranked 19th in financial hardship among all 50 states, with one of the nation’s highest percentages of households struggling to make ends meet in 2021.

Even with the variety of temporary pandemic supports available, in 2021, a family of four with two-full time workers earning salaries as a retail salesperson and a cashier – two of the most common occupations in Connecticut – fell short of affording the family budget by $27,682. 

Add inflation and the narrative shifts entirely. Inflation in Connecticut has long contributed to a structural economic problem: wages for jobs essential to the running of the economy are not high enough for workers to afford the household basics they need to support their families. For example, the cost of six household essentials in Connecticut has risen at a faster clip than inflation, leaving low-wage workers priced out of affording the basics.


“The ALICE Essentials Index shows that no matter how hard ALICE families work, they are priced out of financial stability,” said United Way of Greater Waterbury President Kristen Jacoby. “ALICE was grappling with a surge in inflation before the rest of us. We need to do better for our essential workers and factor these insights into delivering stronger supports for vulnerable families.”

As the costs of basics have climbed, wages for ALICE workers have failed to keep up. The result? Workers have lost buying power over the past 15 years. Workers in retail sales, (a common occupation in Connecticut), saw an average $42,500 loss of buying power — more than a full year’s earnings, according to findings within the ALICE Essentials Index.

“ALICE doesn’t buy power boats or hire landscapers — ALICE is doing the landscaping,” said Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., national director for United For ALICE, a U.S. research organization driving solutions to financial hardship. “ALICE is simply trying to afford safe housing and dinner on the table.”