United Way of Western Connecticut has launched a fund to help people in this region who are financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Called the ALICE Emergency Fund, it will enable struggling families to receive $20 of free, healthy food at grocery stores each week for six weeks. As the pandemic evolves and the needs of those who are struggling continue to shift, this fund will have the flexibility to address additional basic needs beyond food security.
The pandemic is dealing a heavy blow to the hard-working, struggling families that had already been living paycheck to paycheck before COVID-19 struck. United Way of Western Connecticut has been focusing on the needs of that population for the past five years―a population it calls ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).
To alleviate the extreme stressors on their budgets, ALICE families will receive $20 in free, fresh produce weekly through United Way’s Healthy Savings program. On March 30, participants began receiving $20 in food for six weeks (doubling the previous benefit). To get the food, they just need to use their Healthy Savings mobile app or card at a participating grocery store (Stop & Shop, Walmart, or Acme). If a participant purchases $21 of fresh produce, they will only have to pay $1. In addition, through this program, they can receive up to $50 or more in discounts on other healthy food items, such as milk, eggs, and wholegrain breads.
Donations to the ALICE Emergency Fund will help United Way provide this benefit to struggling families impacted by COVID-19. United Way is enrolling new households in the program. Depending on donations, funds will also be available to cover other basic needs like utilities, gas, etc. New participants will be pre-qualified through social service agencies.
More than $130,000 has been raised through the Fund to date. Generous support has been provided through Pitney Bowes, Newtown Savings Bank, and other corporate and private donors.
“Since March 12, I have stopped working,” said one ALICE mother. “These moments are not easy for my family, since I am the main provider for my two children. I am living off my last paycheck. I don’t know what will happen right now. I pray for the people who are in the most difficult situations and for my family.”
“This is a fast, efficient way to get a benefit to people who are struggling with food insecurity right now,” said Isabel Almeida, interim president and chief operating officer at United Way of Western Connecticut. “Some people might be getting unemployment benefits within the next few weeks or months, but most will still be living on extremely tight budgets. By donating to the fund, you’ll be providing free food to people who need it now, to feed their families.”
United Way launched Healthy Savings in May of 2019. It now has over 300 participants in in the region.
The ALICE Emergency Fund will benefit ALICE individuals and families who reside in the 15-town region served by United Way of Western Connecticut, including the City of Stamford, Greater Danbury, and Greater New Milford. Those seeking assistance can call (203) 297-6674.
To donate to the fund, go to www.uwwesternct.org/aliceemergencyfund or text WCTCOVID19 to 71777.
An additional fund has been set up by Connecticut United Ways to help those in need statewide. If you are interested in supporting the CTUW COVID-19 Response Fund go to www.ctuwcovid19responsefund.org.
In addition to creating the ALICE Emergency Fund, United Way of Western Connecticut is also responding to community needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in the following ways:
- Granting $9,000 to Hillside Food Outreach to expand their ability to provide food to the homebound during the crisis.
- Administering $20,000 in Mini-Grants to expand the capacity of local food pantries that are members of the Danbury food collaborative to serve additional clients (through the purchase of food, refrigeration, freezers, disposable bags, etc.). The funding comes from the Eat Well, Age Well Council ($10,000) and United Way of Western Connecticut ($10,000).
- Providing immediate lump sum payments to all United Way of Western Connecticut funded agencies for remaining 2020 fiscal year grants (rather than monthly payments) to help agencies cover their operating costs.