Do you recognize these numbers: $8.31 and $12.79? I didn’t either, until I sat down with Maureen Maliszewski, director of Thrive La Plata County.
The minimum wage in Colorado is $8.31 an hour, but $12.79 an hour is what you’ll actually need to earn to get by as a single person in La Plata County. If you’re making more than $12.79, count yourself among the fortunate but keep reading.
Defined as the living wage for our area, $12.79, or about $27,000 annual income, represents the minimum earnings a single adult needs to pay for basic necessities: housing, utilities, food, transportation, health care and miscellaneous expenses. Add a child and you’ll need to earn about $47,000 a year to cover basic expenses, a job that pays $22.50 an hour.
For people not earning a living wage, the unpleasant alternatives are working multiple jobs or supplementing earnings with public or private assistance.
The social justice organization Thrive La Plata County is working toward the goal of a living wage for all employees in our county. Today, about 3,500 workers here earn less than a living wage. And many people work multiple jobs to make the equivalent of a living wage.
Here’s what I learned from Maureen:
For now, a $15 minimum wage is out for Durango. In Colorado, unlike some other states, local governments cannot establish a local minimum wage.
Minimum wage equals poverty. Full-time employment for both parents, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, leaves a family of three barely above the poverty line. This reality is leading to a movement calling for the minimum wage to be locally determined to reflect actual housing and child care costs.
Not just teens and high school dropouts earn minimum wage. The average low-wage worker is 35 years old and is often the primary earner for the family. Seventy-nine percent of low-wage workers have a high school diploma or GED, while 46 percent have taken college courses.
Working 12 hours a day to make a living. A single adult working a full-time minimum wage job in La Plata County would need to earn an additional $9,630 annually to make a living wage. At minimum wage, that would be an extra 23 hours a week.
Thrive recognizes local employers who pay all of their employees at least $12.79 an hour. A list is available on Thrive’s website.
If you are inspired to make a difference, there is a living wage job available with Thrive. Maureen helped start Thrive out of a passion for social and economic justice, not as a desire to be a nonprofit director. If you are passionate about living wages and want to lead Thrive, call Maureen.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. Visit his website, www.personalfinancecoaching.com.