Candidate Andrea Kelly Garrison for State Representative is starting a series of guest blogs that take a hard look at her District's top issues and problems. Andrea's view is that knowing and admitting the hard truths is the best way to create and fight for the policies that will actually help her community and future constituents. Today's first guest blog is looking at the financial truths of the district.
Guest post, Patricia VanLuven
If you worry about your financial well-being, you’re not alone. Did you know that over half of the people in Shiawassee County who responded to a community survey said that “paying necessary bills” was one of their top concerns? (CACS, 2019) And that was in 2019, before the pandemic placed additional financial stress on people!
Over a third of working families in Shiawassee County do not earn enough to afford the basic living expenses necessary to sustain them. (United for ALICE, 2019)
How much income is needed to support a family of four in Shiawassee County? Here are basic living expense budgets for this county, from three organizations:
In Shiawassee County a family of four needs an income of about $62,000 just for these basic living expenses. (United for ALICE, 2019) This budget includes no money to build up savings, or to buy disability or life insurance. Half of the families in Shiawassee County have an income of about $65,000 or less. (US Census Bureau)
Both parents are in the workforce in almost 70% of local families with children under age 5. (Kids Count, 2019)
Childcare is expensive and women’s wages are low; a mother earning the median income for women here ($36,000) will spend 1⁄3 of her earnings on childcare for two children. (US Census Bureau, 2019, Kids Count, 2019)
In spite of working hard and stretching their dollars carefully, numerous middle-income families in Shiawassee County live with perpetual financial stress and vulnerability. What is at the root of all this? Wages have not kept pace with living expenses.
The financial hardships that middle-income families are struggling to stay above are already drowning many lower-income families. A couple that is working full time at minimum wage, with two kids, will face the vast gap between their household income of $39,000 and the $62,000 necessary for basic living expenses in this county.
A hard-working low-income family can fall into poverty if they experience severe adversity such as a serious illness, disability of a parent or child, losing both jobs, or losing one parent. The federal poverty guideline for a family of four is $26,000.
In Shiawassee County, almost 1 in 5 families lives in poverty. (United for ALICE, 2019) That was before the pandemic; without substantial safety nets the poverty level will likely rise.
Many people in Shiawassee County are deeply concerned about the financial well-being of their own families and other families in our community. Here, many middle-class families lose sleep worrying about their financial stability, lower-income families are struggling to not slip into poverty, and impoverished children go to bed hungry.
Shiawassee and Saginaw counties need a State Representative like Andrea who acknowledges the district's economic reality and who will stand up for living wages and fair employment practices, essential living expenses that are affordable and equitable, and humane safety nets.
For data details visit: justnumbers.vanluven.info
To allow for comparison, numbers from different sources are adjusted for inflation to 2019 dollars and rounded. https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
CACS, Capital Area Community Services, Community Assessment, 2019 https://www.cacs-inc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/cacs_community_assessment_2019.pdf
Kids Count, 2019 https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/customreports/3821/any
MLPP, Michigan League for Public Policy, 2017 https://mlpp.org/making-ends-meet-in-michigan-a-basic-income-level-for-family-well-being-2017/
MIT/Living Wage Calculator, 2018 https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/26
US Census Bureau, 2019 https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/shiawasseecountymichigan
US DHHS: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, 2020 https://aspe.hhs.gov/prior-hhs-poverty-guidelines-and-federal-register-references
United for ALICE, 2019 (United Way) https://www.unitedforalice.org/michigan
Pew Research Center, 2018 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/