This week, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a law that will bring about the highest minimum wage of any U.S. state, and the bill raises the state’s minimum hourly rate to $10.10 per hour. Earlier this year, President Obama raised the federal minimum wage for all federal employees and contractors by executive order, and he is asking Congress to act by raising the minimum wage on for all hourly workers across the nation. However, until Congress is willing to raise the minimum wage, President Obama has called on individual states to act independently and not wait for Congress. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State was one of the first governors to respond by cutting a deal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
- As of March 24, 38 states considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session; 34 states are considering increases to the state minimum wage.
- Connecticut, Delaware and D.C. have enacted increases so far in 2014.
- As of Jan. 1, 2014, 21 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
- 19 states, GU, PR and VI have minimum wages the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
- 4 states and AS have minimum wages below the federal minimum wage (the federal minimum thus applies).
- 1 state, New Hampshire, repealed their state minimum wage in 2011, but left the reference to the federal minimum wage.
- 5 states have not established a state minimum wage.
Lets take a look at The Cost of Living in America. The North Carolina Justice Center conducted a study on this issue back in 2010. The Living Income Standard finds that the North Carolina family of two adults and two children must earn $48,814 annually to afford the actual costs of seven essential expenses: housing, food, childcare, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities to include clothing, personal care items, household supplies, school supplies and local telephone service. To meet the level, adults in the average four-person family would need to earn a combined $23.47 per hour and work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.
These rates are for NC and not some of the other states with higher cost of living rates such as New York or California. Imagine if this was a family was a single parent household (one parent, one child), the living income standard is estimated to be $11.73 per hour 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.
Due to the federal minimum wage being $7.25 per hours, many families fall below the living wage standard, and affordable housing has become another huge issue in today’s society. While interning at The Carying Place, a transitional housing non-profit organization for homeless families, I encounter families struggling to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis. These people are working full time jobs making $7-$9 dollars an hour because their income is so low, they cannot afford housing let alone, food, clothing, daycare/school expenses for their children and other basic necessities.
Families are being forced to choose between paying a bill or providing a meal for themselves and their children to keep from starving. These are the harsh realities people are dealing with daily. Until some type of change is made, whether it be the raising of minimum wage or the establishment of more Affordable Housing, the struggle will continue.