[Excerpt from CT Mirror feature article by Keith M. Phaneuf published 9/19/23, which also appeared in print newspapers throughout the state]

According to the Federal Poverty Level, a metric with roots going back 60 years, a family of four is impoverished this year if it earns $30,000 or less. But a new analysis Tuesday from the United Way of Connecticut shows the true gap here is more than four times that level — and heading in the wrong direction.

The Connecticut chapter’s latest ALICE projections — an acronym for Asset-Limited Income-Constrained Employed households — found a family of four, with two adults, one pre-schooler and one infant, needed to earn $106,632 in 2021 to cover a basic survival budget. Unprecedented inflation in housing, food costs and other essentials over the past two years adds another 18.2%, bringing the 2023 estimate to $126,018.

For those two working adults, that requires combined earnings of $63 per hour or an average of $31.50 each. That’s double the new $15.69-per-hour minimum wage that Gov. Ned Lamont touted Monday.

“The lay person, I don’t think, understands how severe the situation for so many working people has become,” Lisa Tepper Bates, president and CEO of the United Way of Connecticut, said, adding that many public officials also don’t fully appreciate how much poor households are struggling. [....]

And those aren’t the only numbers getting worse. As coronavirus pandemic relief programs are being phased out, some problems facing families below the ALICE threshold aren’t going away.

Food insecurity among Connecticut adults living with children nearly doubled between 2021 and 2022, jumping from 12% to 23%, said Mark Abraham, executive director of DataHaven, a New Haven-based nonprofit that collects and analyzes data on equity and quality of life issues. About 17% of those households faced food insecurity in 2018.

And Connecticut’s pockets of deepest poverty have struggled with food insecurity rates of 20% or higher for decades, said Abraham, a research advisor on the ALICE project. [....]

And while median household income statewide rose 21% between 1980 and 2020, DataHaven reported, much of that overall growth is tied to prosperity in wealthy Fairfield County suburbs. For example, median household income over those four decades rose in the six wealthiest Fairfield County towns by 81%, from $127,000 to $203,000 in 2020 inflation-adjusted dollars. In Bridgeport, the state’s largest and poorest city, it rose 7%, from $44,000 to $47,000. [....]

“We would like to see a really robust discussion about what we can do in Connecticut to help these families get on more stable financial footing,” Bates said. “I would hope that that discussion would include a fully refundable, state level child tax credit.”