Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

March 16, 2014

Minimum wage a strain for Grand Traverse region workers

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City native Derek Kenny is very conservative when it comes to spending money.

That's the way it has to be. He works as a convenience store manager and earns a bit more than the state's $7.40 per-hour minimum wage. Kenny has monthly bills for rent, car payment, car insurance, gas, health care and groceries.

It's a challenge to make ends meet, even for a single man.

"Even if you're frugal with your groceries, you're still spending $50 to $100 a month just on yourself. Heaven forbid you have a child or are living with someone else. And what about insurance? Michigan has one of the highest insurance rates in the country," Kenny, 26, said.

The area's high cost of living, particularly for housing, makes it difficult for many low-income residents to keep a roof over their heads and pay their monthly bills. The retiree- and tourist-reliant Grand Traverse region leans heavily on service industry workers — restaurant staff, healthcare aides, lawn care, agricultural and construction workers — and many don't make much more than minimum wage.

Statistics show that a single adult who lives in Grand Traverse County must make $11 an hour to meet their basic needs. That number jumps to $22.30 per hour for a single parent with two children under 5, and both adults in a two-parent household with two children under 5 must make $13.02 an hour in order to get by.

Those numbers came from "Making Ends Meet in Michigan: A Basic Needs Income Level for Family Well-Being," a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for policies to promote economic opportunity, including a recent push to boost the state's minimum wage.

The report compiles the costs of providing the basics: housing, food, transportation, personal/household items, health care and child care, if applicable, for a single adult; a single parent with two children; a two-parent household with two children and one working parent; and a two-parent household with two children and two working parents.

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