NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Thousands of people in Connecticut are struggling to pay their bills, even though they make well over the state’s minimum wage.
A new study shows what Connecticut workers need to earn in order to actually get by. We’re talking about a living wage…what you need to make to pay the rent, utilities, buy food, take care of your kids and have a little bit saved up for emergencies. This study shows the living wage in Connecticut is more than twice the state’s minimum wage.
News 8 went to the Mount Olive Child Development Center because teachers and child care providers are among some of the hardest-working, yet lowest paid professionals there are. Teachers there make between $12 and $19 an hour.
Crystal Williams is a teacher at a Hartford day care. She works full time, but struggles to make ends meet.
“Just knowing all the bills I have to pay, it’s really, really, really, really hard to pay,” she said. “I make $12.50 and it’s not enough.”
Her $12.50 an hour is still more than $3 above Connecticut’s minimum wage, but nowhere near the true living wage, according to a new study by the Alliance for a Just Society. The study looked at what someone would need to make to get by without public assistance.
“When you take that away, the true cost is almost $20 an hour,” said Ann Pratt of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, the local affiliate of the AJS. “The number of people who get that wage in Connecticut is very minimal.”
Connecticut’s minimum wage is actually going up. A couple years ago, it was $8.25. Now it’s $9.15. In two months that goes up to $9.60, and by January of 2017, it will be $10.10 an hour, but this study shows that’s still not enough. The study shows a single adult needs to make $19.03 over a 40 hour work week just to get by. In a working couple with two kids, both adults have to make $25.11 an hour. A single parent with two kids needs to earn almost $41 an hour in Connecticut.
In recent years, we have seen protests in which fast food workers rallied around the idea of a $15 minimum wage, an idea picked up by New York State
“If you look at New York, they created a wage board,” said Pratt. “They did some studies and they figured out, oh my God, it’s time to actually put our workers up to $15 an hour and we think that’s going to be good for the economy and good for the workers.”
We spoke to Jessica Metcalf. She has a masters degree, works full time, and has been teaching at Mount Olive for almost 20 years.
“And my fiance works as well, but we still struggle to be able to pay the mortgage, pay the bills, pay all the bills that need to be paid and to give my stepdaughter all the things that she needs and that she wants,” said Metcalf.
Jessica is still paying off her student loans from getting her masters. While she is still paying for her education, her 16 year-old stepdaughter is about to start thinking about college.
While a single adult needs to make $19 an hour over a 40 hour week to live without government help in Connecticut, another way to think about it is, at the current minimum wage, that person would have to work 83 hours a week to get by.
The full report from the Alliance for a Just Society is available online here.