Pandemic doubles participation in statewide United Way program for working poor 

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Participation in a statewide United Way program designed to help working families and individuals gain financial stability has doubled since the pandemic started.

ALICE Saves is a partnership among the 16 Connecticut United Ways. It offers services including a matching online savings account program and free financial coaching. ALICE stands for “asset limited, income constrained, employed.” 

There are currently 642 people enrolled, with 340 actively saving money and about 45 involved in the financial coaching program, said United Way financial consultant Donna Taglianetti. To date, participants have saved $295,000 in the past 12 months, she said.

“People were really nervous (about the pandemic), some received the federal stimulus, some received the unemployment, and they saved it,” Taglianetti said. 

According to the Connecticut ALICE Report, 40 percent of households struggle to make ends meet. The Federal Reserve Bank says that 47 percent of U.S. households could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt. 

The goal of ALICE Saves is to motivate state residents to save money and establish other healthy financial behaviors, according to the United Way.

 Participants must be 18 or older and have a valid e-mail address and savings account. To join ALICE Saves, individuals link their bank accounts to SaverLife, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people save. Those who put aside $20 dollars a month for six months will earn a $60 reward and have opportunities to win other prizes. The online SaverLife platform can link to bank accounts at over 9,000 financial institutions, including PayPal.

The end of several safety net programs, including extended unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions, may slow savings. The United Way now hopes more people take advantage of free financial coaches.    

“I feel that ALICE households are incredibly resilient when it comes to stretching budgets,” said Paula Gilberto, president and secretary, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

The matching of savings is funded through grants from JPMorgan Chase and Webster Bank, along with the pooled resources from the state’s United Ways. 

Maria Harlow, executive director of the United Way of Meriden/Wallingford said she often refers people to the ALICE Saves to help them gain some control over their finances.

“There is a web site that people can go,” Harlow said. “They enter their information there, they can do everything completely private. The information doesn’t go to the agencies. They need that type of support.” 

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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