Families Out of Balance: Idaho Reality Is Nowhere Near Living Wage

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A sobering report, titled "Families Out of Balance," published this morning, confirms what too many Idaho middle- and lower middle-class families know all to well: They are struggling more than ever to put food on the table and clothes on their backs.

In the first of what will be a series of reports produced by the Alliance for a Just Society, 10 states, including Idaho, were examined to compare jobs, wages and the cost of living.

"Our reality is that we can't even afford to live in our own house because rent is out of our budget on what the two of us earn," said Idaho husband and father of one Deejay Henry. "I have had two raises since I began working here, and now I make $12 an hour.

Henry is not unlike thousands of Idahoans whose household budgets hover way too close to their income, leaving no room for savings, emergencies or higher education for their children. 

Idaho's so-called "living wage" for a single adult is $14.57, according to the analysis. That's the hourly wage needed to meet basic needs. The living wage for a single adult with two children is $24.12 per hour. Yet Idaho's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Couple that with Idaho's growing personal debt. The report indicates that students in Idaho graduate with approximately $26,750 in student loans, and the average credit card holder in the state has an outstanding debt of about $4,500. Additionally, over 20 percent of mortgages in the state are underwater.

Meanwhile, Henry's wife will soon start a part-time job as a laundry aide in a retirement facility to help their family make ends meet. 

"We are fortunate to live in a nice house as roommates, but, as a young family, we can't wait for the day we can move into our own place, and maybe have a little dog for our daughter to grow up with."