Earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5.8 percent of Idaho's working women were paid the minimum wage, compared to 4.4 percent of Idaho's working men. Idaho's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a far cry from the $14.51 per hour a new national survey indicated is necessary for a single Idaho adult to make a "living wage." The living wage for a single adult with two children is $25.56 per hour, according to the survey.
The report, published Oct. 13 by the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for a Just Society, states Idaho's minimum wage "does not allow working families to make ends meet," providing only half a living wage for a single adult and 28 percent of the living wage for a single adult with two kids. The analysis explains how a single adult earning minimum wage in Idaho would need to work more than 80 hours per week to make a living wage.
"We have nothing to put in savings, but we try to keep $5 in our savings account just to keep it open," Isik Best, of Lewiston, told the study's authors, adding he needs two jobs to make ends meet. "Ultimately, low wages and tight budgets create stress and limit everything we do. We feel disappointed that we can't take our kids to do fun stuff," Best said.
Best's plight, like that of nearly 30,000 Idahoans employed at the minimum wage, wasn't on the agenda for Republican leadership during the 2015 Idaho Legislature. While a measure was proposed to incrementally raise Idaho's minimum wage to $9.25 an hour, Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie, who chairs the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee, chose not to grant it a hearing. McKenzie told the Associated Press he didn't see enough support among his GOP colleagues.
"Working full-time should ensure financial stability," the Alliance for a Just Society analysis stated in its executive summary, going on to advocate for a $15 national minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Best said he'll take what he can get to keep putting food on the table.
"We struggle to get through each month," he added. "If I had a better paying job, we could buy a house, a decent running car and save some money."