Rising tide not lifting all boats
On the surface, findings from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 State of the Community Report (“Income Growing, Poverty Lingering”) suggest a robust economy here in Orange County. Population, wealth, and entrepreneurship are booming. With the number of Asian and Hispanic families climbing, the county’s workforce is also showing a healthy degree of diversity.
But buried in the last two paragraphs of the article – just as it is all too often buried in public debate – is the indisputable fact that poverty is still dogging our community. One in every six Orange County residents was living in poverty last year, considerably higher than both the state and national averages. Out of those 23,660 low-income residents, a significant portion was working at minimum wage jobs. Our county’s largest employers, UNC and UNC Health Care, employ thousands of low-wage workers. Thousands more work on farms and in restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and child and senior-care facilities.
So, the good news/bad news from the chamber’s report can be summed up this way: While the county’s income per capita grew by 10.5 percent from 2009 to 2012, the minimum wage earned by the working poor grew by 0 percent.
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That’s right, zero! It was $7.25 per hour in 2009 and $7.25 per hour in 2012, and sadly remains frozen at $7.25 in 2014. Meanwhile the price for a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, or a week of child care have all gone up.
A parent needs to earn at least $23,550 to raise a family of four above the poverty level. A full-time worker making $7.25/hour is paid $14,550 a year. The value of the minimum wage erodes year after year, leaving more and more families living paycheck to paycheck, with absolutely no wiggle room in their budgets for the inevitable vagaries of life. It can be a terrifying existence.
The rising tides of economic recovery are lifting many boats, as highlighted by the first half of the Chapel Hill News headline, Income Growing. But, let us not lose sight of the second half of the headline, Poverty Lingers. All too many boats are still tied to the dock, weighted down and with nowhere to go.
A better solution?
Bravo, Erin! (“Dropping PA shortchanges middle-school students,” CHN, bit.ly/1qxlmTY)
Instead of solving the “untenable” problem of poorly supervised PA time with either more staff or parent volunteers, the Culbreth administration has decided to incorporate more “structured” time (that was very loosely defined). I would like to see the data points projecting this as a better solution as opposed to the years of neuroplasticity studies done on the need for physical activity for brain development.
Tracey Griffin Himmel
‘Reflections on 9/11
Christians United for Israel (UNC-Chapel Hill chapter) cordially invites community members to attend our program “Reflections on 9/11: How did it happen, can it happen again?” at UNC’s Gerrard Hall at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 11.
Join us for an evening of remembrance and an engaging presentation on a very timely subject. Tickets are free but must be reserved or picked up in advance at the Memorial Hall box office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.