Shouldn’t People Working Full-Time Be Able to Pay Rent?

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

min_wage_3Welcome to the third installment of NCLR’s minimum wage truth-telling series. If you haven’t seen the first two video blogs about the real impact of raising the minimum wage for women and working students, check them out. And if you haven’t shared your minimum wage story with NCLR, please take the time to do so. This week’s piece sheds light on how increasing the minimum wage would lift 900,000 to 6 million workers out of poverty.

Liz Garcia, featured in this week’s video. Liz is the Director of Planning and Programs at Hispanic Services Council, a Tampa-based NCLR Affiliate that works to improve the quality of life of all Hillsborough County residents by promoting academic success of children and youth, preparing individuals to excel in today’s workforce, supporting the development of healthy communities and promoting leadership and engagement among Latinos. She believes it’s shameful that her organization often receives calls from individuals working full-time that can’t pay their rent. Listen to Liz explain how putting more money in workers pockets will help boost many of her community members out of poverty. If you agree with her, NCLR wants to know why.

With the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, too many workers with full-time jobs are struggling financially, and are living in poverty. How can that be? Well, a full-time worker earning the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour earns just $15,080 a year. For a family of three, that is $4,000 below the federal poverty line. A bump in the minimum wage to $10.10 would give minimum wage earners an additional $4,700 per year. This would be a substantial boost for families, especially people of color, who are struggling to pay for basic expenses like rent, food, and utilities.

The failure of wages to cover basic economic needs is one of the major factors contributing to rising Latino child poverty and income inequality. A minimum wage that fails to cover the basics means that full-time workers have to rely on antipoverty programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. While these are important programs to protect against poverty, they should not serve as subsides to employers who pay poverty wages. Raising the floor on wages would go a long way toward reducing poverty and ensuring working families have enough income to get by.

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