Earnings above poverty line still below what is needed to meet families’ basic needs


By Paige Elliott

Special to The SUN

Livable Wages, the third report of the 2015 edition of the Southwest Colorado Index, is now available. This report examines a variety of livable wages indicators and trends including rental housing costs and wages by job sector.

The Southwest Colorado Index takes a comprehensive look at specific topics in order to measure the overall economic, social and environmental health of the communities in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties — which comprise Region 9.

The Southwest Colorado Index uses estimated expenditures from the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2015 (the Standard), prepared for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP). The Standard defines the income needed to realistically support a family, without public or private assistance. For most workers throughout Colorado, the Standard shows that earnings above the official Federal Poverty Level are nevertheless far below what is needed to meet families’ basic needs.

In Colorado, the amount needed to be economically self-sufficient varies considerably by geographic location. The 2015 Colorado minimum wage is $8.23 per hour, which amounts to $17,382 per year working full time. Using housing and childcare costs specific to each community in the region, the report found that Durango is the most expensive community for a family of four ($28.45 per hour) due to the high cost of housing.

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