Shelves at Connecticut Foodshare warehouse Credit: Christine Stuart file photo

When faced with rising cost of living, families – having no choice in what they pay for rent, water and electric bills – the food budget is where they tend to cut back, according to a new survey by a Connecticut nonprofit. 

Prosperi-Key, an organization that connects low-income households with local businesses, nonprofits and donors, recently received 380 responses to survey questions about how they adjust their spending when faced with increased costs. 

“We kept saying how are people managing if you don’t have extra funds or any way to make extra money,” said Kim Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Prosperi-Key. “What do you do when your utility bill went up $400 to $500?” 

To encourage people to be part of the platform, Prosperi-Ky asked moderate-to-low-income households to take a one-question survey so they can be entered into a chance to win $200 toward their utility bills. There will be a total of ten winners, 5 of which were already announced with the rest to be announced on Friday, June 30.

At least for the next six months, residents will get some relief when, starting July 1, both United Illuminating (UI) and Eversource will reduce their rates by an average of about 22% for typical Eversource customers and 11% for UI clients. For Eversource, the rate will plunge from 24.17 cents to 13.82 cents per kWh, and for UI, it will go down from 21.94 cents to 14.33 per kWh.

Standard service rates are revised twice a year – every January and July, based on the cost UI and Eversource pay for electricity. 

Of the survey responses Prosperi-Key received, 77% said they had decreased the amount of money they spent on food and groceries, with another 46% reporting that paying the rent on time is a struggle.

Spending on family entertainment and outings were also mentioned as areas families had to cut back on, according to Morgan.

“It’s just heartbreaking when you read through some of them,” Morgan said of the survey responses. 

“Everything is just sort of crumbling since the pandemic. I had more children come home to live with me and that brought about more expenses also. I’ve fallen behind on everything,” according to one response.

Says another, “My utilities started to become a burden when I lost my job a few months back. It’s been a struggle ever since just to keep up. I’ve had to cut back on so many fun things I used to do with my children. I’ve even been paying my rent late to keep up with my monthly lights and gas payments.” 

Prosperi-Key started when the United Way of Western Connecticut was looking to make it easier for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households to access direct service programs. 

Staff there came up with a verification process to confirm a household’s income (low to moderate). From there, members would have access to a platform that would offer a variety of programs, services and business offers. 

“We put it in one place and ultimately maybe they save some money on food or an oil change, a haircut or a day to day expense,” Morgan said, adding that folks could also get breaks on childcare.

The range of services also include social support programs and government assistance. In the end, Morgan said, the hope is to give people the ability to achieve financial stability through education.

She credits a $1.2 million federal grant that helped the program expand in the state as well as collaborate with state workforce development programs. Morgan said 7,626 people are on the platform, and 3,845 identify as low-moderate-income and are considered ‘Key Members.’

Morgan said anyone in the low to moderate income range should go to and register. She said in the event a person doesn’t qualify, but thinks s/he should, they can call (855) 958-5550. 

“You think if you are making $70,000, $80,000 or $90,000 a year in Connecticut that you would be ok and you’re not,” Morgan said. She added households experience a job loss or several crises at once that can create a snowball effect. “They can’t get out from under the crisis.” 

Morgan encouraged nonprofits and businesses to join as partners.

“I think everyone has a role to make a difference for their neighbors,” Morgan said. “We can all do something. This platform was created so everyone can find a place on it to get help and give help.”