Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many Americans and one that has likely been stretched even further due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, an unexpected emergency could mean deciding to pay everyday expenses or paying an unforeseen medical bill. In fact, research shows that nearly 40% of Americans are unable to pay an unexpected $400 bill.
The United Way describes this population as ALICE, which stands for:
The Hartford has partnered with the United Way to support ALICE by providing awareness, education and resources to its employee benefits customers through the 211 network. Below are three things to know about ALICE and why this initiative is so important to a company like The Hartford.
1. Who Is ALICE?
The United Way describes ALICE households as those who are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality childcare or paying the rent. These are workers who are employed, who wake up and go to work every day, but still struggle to make ends meet. They are your neighbor, your friend, your child’s teacher or your local restaurant owner, for example.
2. Why Is the Partnership Important to The Hartford?
We believe that people are capable of achieving amazing things with the right encouragement and support. One example is our longtime partnership with the United Way. As we learned more about the United Way’s ALICE initiative, we began to appreciate how the program’s mission aligns with ours specifically within the Group Benefits business.
In Group Benefits, we provide life and disability insurance to employees through their employers. Many companies provide at least a minimum benefit amount while some also offer employees the option of purchasing additional coverage on their own. This means if an employee only has what the company pays for, likely they will have – at a minimum – a life insurance benefit replacing 1x their annual salary and a 50-60% replacement of their paycheck in the event of a covered disability.
If someone is already living paycheck to paycheck, the impact of losing almost half of their income to a disability or all of their income in the event of a loved one’s untimely passing is immediate. Even families who were not considered ALICE before can quickly find themselves walking the line between the cost of living and poverty due to a medical issue or accident.
This is where The Hartford is uniquely positioned to help. When a customer calls The Hartford to make a claim, employees taking those calls often hear stories about how the customers are struggling. It could be a call from someone who just lost a spouse due to an untimely death and they discuss how they cannot afford funeral expenses or express how they aren’t going to be able to pay bills due to the loss of the second income. It could be a call from an individual who will be out of work due to a disability who expresses concern about their access to transportation to get to a doctor’s appointment. It’s common for call center employees to hear first-hand about a families’ emotional loss which is often compounded by financial loss.
3. What Is The Hartford Doing Differently?
Together with the United Way, The Hartford is committed to supporting ALICE by providing awareness, education and resources to our customers through the organization’s 211 network.
We have trained our life and disability insurance claims and care teams to provide them with a deeper understanding of 211 capabilities. With this knowledge, they can help guide customers to 211 when the need is identified. This could be connecting an individual to 211 for assistance in finding a ride-sharing service to get to a doctor’s appointment or legal services, or assistance finding caregiving support for elderly parents or children with special needs.
Additionally, we promote 211 through our online benefits portal so even if someone doesn’t call us, we can still educate and connect them to the service online. We also incorporated 211 information in our life beneficiary and disability claims packages, which are distributed to 500,000 people annually.
This partnership is another example of The Hartford’s commitment to building safe, strong and successful communities while positively impacting the most vulnerable of our neighbors. The company is also continuing to work with employers to reinforce the importance of offering life and disability insurance as key elements of a sound financial plan.