Friday, February 18, 2005

Raising the Minimum Wage

There's discussion in Pennsylvania among the Democrats of raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15. It doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon, but it's good to see Democrats continuing to champion this issue.

I was the evening supervisor for a homeless shelter a few years ago. I was the program director for another one before that. In both places, employment was one of the criteria for being allowed to stay for over 30 days. The majority of our residents were employed, yet few of them could afford to move out of the shelter because they held minimum wage jobs.

Consider some simple math. If a single parent with one child made $10 an hour and worked 40 hours a week, after taxes income would be roughly $1400 a month. How far would that go? Here's a bare minimum monthly budget;

700 rent
200 utilities
400 food and household items
150 transportation

Note that this does not include medical expenses, child care, insurance or savings, among a number of other items that many of us would include in our own bare bones budget. That's at $10 an hour; almost double the minimum wage in many places.

The "welfare to work" program makes no sense if you must continue to live in a homeless shelter and work 40 hours a week. It would seem to me that the wealthiest nation in the world can figure out a way to offer every worker a living wage.


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