Residents of Idaho are seeing a lot more working poor people in their communities lately.
Idaho sees a growing population of the working poor
by Justin Corr
CALDWELL -- The economy is coming out of the recession, and more Idahoans are getting back to work. However, that doesn't mean they're all able to get off government assistance or stop needing the help of local charities. It's a growing population in Idaho, the working poor.
"They work 2-3 jobs and they still struggle," said Church.Idaho is also 50th in Mental Health Care spending, 50th in the number of primary care physicians, and 49th in per-pupil spending on education.
Why is this happening? Everyone seems to agree, a big reason are Idaho's wages. Idaho's median individual income is $11.15 an hour, which makes it the lowest in the nation.
A household with one adult making $11.15 with two kids would actually make about $16.93 an hour, when you add in tax credits. But, that's still low, when you consider that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates a livable wage for that household is $22.25 an hour. Where does this Idaho family get the assistance to cover another $5.78 an hour?
Director of Idaho Health and Welfare Dick Armstrong says his department helps. "I think it's a shame that people are put into full-time work, and they barely get by."
They now assist 20 percent of Idaho's population with cash, Medicaid, food stamps, or childcare. That's up from 13 percent just 10 years ago, but that doesn't mean Idaho is a welfare state.
In fact, a recent study found Idaho with its total benefit package adding up to about $5.36 an hour for a full-time worker, ranked 50th in the nation, and a requirement for all able-bodied adults to get public assistance, is that they're working, or looking for work.
Idaho's path to the bottom of the barrel was charted by Republicans. Republicans run the legislature with lopsided majorities of 80% in the state senate and 81.5% in the state house, and Idaho hasn't had a Democratic Governor in 20 years.
This year the Republican clown Legislature has been preoccupied with criminalizing video taping of illegal farm practices, a turn away the gays bill, and making sure college students are't deprived of their guns while attending classes. Real urgent stuff, if you're a Tea Party whack job. And naturally a Republicans bill to give big tax cuts to the rich is under serious consideration.
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But an analysis by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy indicates that a typical Idaho family of four earning $30,000 per year could expect a savings of $13. In contrast, similar families with incomes of $300,000 would receive a tax break of $1,633. Low-wage families earning less than $27,800 would see no savings, according to the Center.
But nothing to help the working poor. Nothing for Idaho's students. Nothing for the mentally ill.
So how is the Idaho legislature helping out people struggling to make ends meet? A higher minimum wage? No way! More money for schools or mental healthcare? Forget it! Idaho Republicans would rather pass tax cuts for people who don't need them, and criminalize videotaping farm animals.