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A living wage
by Jeff Blanck
Feb 18, 2008 | 525 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recently there was a lot of fanfare about the minimum wage going up to $6.55 per hour. That’s better then where it was at $5.85 per hour and next July it will go up to a new high of $7.25 per hour. A person’s monthly wage at the highest rate would come to about $1,275 per month before taxes.

What does this mean to a single parent living in Reno? More than two thirds of all marriages end up in divorce so there are a large number of single parents out there with many not receiving any child support from the absent parent.

Ten to Fifteen years ago the government got rid of “welfare moms” by requiring them to go to work. Sounds like a good idea but only if they can support themselves and their child. I remember a lot of animosity in the 80’s and 90’s toward alleged mothers sitting at home living in luxury off their government checks. (I personally never knew of any). So the government made them all go to work. End of problem.

Not quite. Just look at the cost of living in Sparks as an example. Suppose a parent and young child live in a small two bedroom apartment that costs about $700 a month with utilities included. A phone costs about $40 per month. Food could easily run up to $600 per month. Gasoline for the car is now $200 per month. If the child is in elementary school there is before and after school care that costs about $500 per month. Add in a clothes budget of $20 per month, car maintenance of $30 per month, car insurance at $300 per month and a small recreation budget of $50 per month and your net monthly expenses are $2,440. This is without health care or a car payment.

When you compare this to your income from your minimum wage job you come up way short. Your gross pay only covers 50% of your living expenses. That means you can’t pay for gasoline, car insurance or car maintenance. You get rid of the car and take the bus. Now your expenses are down to $1,910. Still way above the $1,275 you are earning. You still need to cut $700 out of your monthly budget.

You can’t cut out child care or you won’t be able to work. So you cut way back on food, say $300, and you rent out a room to a stranger for $300 and get rid of your phone. If you don’t have any withholding out of your paycheck (which is highly unlikely) you are living right on the edge.

But then your child gets sick, say strep throat or the flu or a myriad of other illnesses kids get. You have to miss work and take her to the doctor. You don’t get any sick leave and your doctor bill is $120. You are out $178 dollars that you don’t have. Every day you are home with your sick child costs you $58 in income. Now you are truly over the edge. You lose your apartment and are out on the street. If you are off work too long because of your child you lose your job as well. Welcome to the life of the working poor.

For the single parent to make ends meet she needs to earn $15.00 per hour, not a measly $7.25. This would be a living wage. She could then take care of herself and her child (still without health insurance). But our elected officials don’t seem to talk about a living wage. They still refer to a minimum wage. But a minimum wage for what? Shouldn’t the purpose of a minimum wage be to allow a person to live a halfway decent life?

I know we aren’t going to mandate a $15.00 per hour minimum wage. Then we need to have assistance for those who work but can’t make ends meet when they do work. We are the richest society on the planet. It can be done. We as a society have an obligation to do more.

The next time you hear talk about the minimum wage think of what a living wage really needs to be. Somehow we have to close the gap.

Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at:
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February 21, 2008
We really do need assistance for the working... it just doesnt exist. According to welfare even at 7.25 you would be making way too much for even food stamps. I think we should just institute mandatory drug testing to Welfare recipients then maybe some of us working our butts off could get some help.

A living wage by Jeff Blanck

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