Ceci Maher

State Senator

Ceci Maher

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together For Our Communities

February 21, 2024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          CONTACT
February 21, 2024                                                      Joe O’Leary 508-479-4969

Senator Maher Details Legislative Proposals As Children’s Committee Moves Forward

Today, State Senator Ceci Maher (D-Wilton), Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, provided details regarding two prominent bills to be considered in the 2024 legislative session by the committee targeting improvement in processes providing support to families. These bills, if they become law, would lead to state officials and stakeholders investigating potentially significant changes to current policies regarding how the state considers poverty levels and could ease strain for families undergoing immediate crisis.

The concepts, currently being drafted, include pursuing a new poverty metric and creating a universal behavioral health intake form.

The first, House Bill 5162, “An Act Requiring Certain Agencies To Report Costs Associated With Programs Serving Children and Families,” involves the creation of a task force to evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of state departments utilizing federal poverty numbers and consider the possibility of replacing them with ALICE, or “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” figures.

ALICE is a term coined by the United Way to reflect an alternate way to define income inequality, reflecting the high cost of living for individuals who earn above federal poverty lines but earn below a livable wage, a gap that can constrain and worsen a number of financial impacts. Adjusting to a more realistic metric would better inform the state’s knowledge regarding struggling residents and households, as well as right size budget line items in future years of developing legislation.

“Under Federal metrics used to determine poverty levels in Connecticut, 10 percent of the state needs support. Under the proposed future metric, nearly 40 percent of households are actually struggling,” said Sen. Maher. “It is important for my colleagues and I to consider the possibility of a more accurate measure to help determine future aid and better support our state’s residents and a more realistic budget. ALICE figures show that there’s plenty of work left to do in order to support Connecticut families, which is what we were elected to do.”

According to the United Way, the ALICE metric measures the cost of the essentials mattering most to households, which include housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and a smartphone plan. While 10 percent of Connecticut households were in poverty in 2021, under ALICE measures, 28 percent were deemed to be ALICE households. This means, under this metric, up to 39 percent of state households did not earn enough to meet the modern demands of daily living. Additionally, from 2007 to 2023, the ALICE Essentials Index which tracks these fundamentals found that these needs rose by 3.1 percent, compared to a 2.1 percent increase in for the median wage for a retail salesperson, a job potentially covered in these comparisons, in Connecticut.

Using the ALICE figures instead of federal poverty numbers would help Connecticut understand the needs of thousands of struggling families. Utilizing more realistic metrics would better align programs to the basic cost of living in the state. Improving our knowledge would help us to better plan for delivery of programs and support, thereby relieving some of the stress and strain experienced by such families.

The second concept, still being drafted, was developed after Sen. Maher heard from constituents and families whose children have experienced mental health crises. She is working on legislation that would study the creation of what she calls the “behavioral health common application,” modeled after the platform used by students to apply to many different colleges which have different requirements while utilizing a universal form.

“When children are experiencing an immediate need for care, the parents are more focused on their child than thinking about providing all the information that may be needed. I have heard from parents that the forms change from provider to provider and can be difficult and time consuming to fill out, at times requiring additional information that isn’t readily at hand, adding to the stress parents experience,” said Sen. Maher. “A universal form would be more effective and provide the benefit of connecting patients more quickly with care, giving the clearest historical record to the care giver, and allowing family members to concentrate on their child in a trying time.”

This intake form would help children be connected with the aid they need in an accelerated timeframe and support families in their time of need, preventing potential gaps in care and helping parents focus on supporting their children.

The Office of the Behavioral Health Advocate, which was created last year through legislation beginning in the Children’s Committee, could convene stakeholders to the possibility of developing such an application.

Find Out More