How much money does it take to make ends meet in West Virginia? A new Family Budget calculator from the Economic Policy Institute shows what is required for families to attain a secure yet modest standard of living in rural and urban communities in West Virginia. While the cost of living around West Virginia varies for families, those making poverty-level wages cannot begin to cover basic expenses.
Compared with the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America and West Virginia. For example, a two-parent family with two young children in rural West Virginia, with both parents making the state minimum wage of $8 an hour, would make only $33,280. This is about half of the $61,579 the family would need in annual income to have a modest standard of living that covers the basics – such as housing, food, child care, and transportation. This helps explain why so many people across the country have been demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour, because that is about what it would take for this family to have decent standard of living without any public assistance.
Here is a breakdown of a monthly estimate of expenses for rural West Virginia families. The calculation assumes that families prepare all their meals at home, live in modest housing, and only travel for work and non-social reasons. The measure also takes into account items such as cell phones and home furnishings, but not vacations or saving for retirement or college.
According to the latest American Community Survey, about half or 47 percent of children in West Virginia were in families where their parents (or guardians) made less than twice the poverty rate in 2013 – which is below what families with children need to cover the basics. While West Virginia offers some services to these families such as health insurance, child care assistance, and other programs, these policies are not enough. Working families need better-paying jobs and policies that reward hard work for low-income families that are playing by the rules.
Enacting a refundable West Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would be a step in the right direction. It would not only put more money in the pockets of the states’s low- and moderate-income workers but it would also improve our state’s upside-down tax system and help create more jobs in its rural areas.
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