Middle Class NC Women Feel the Squeeze

Fighting Obesity in Pennsylvania's Low Income NeighborhoodsHave you gotten a raise in the last year? Probably not, if you’re like the majority of North Carolinians. Unfortunately for you (and most of your neighbors) the price of living is climbing—even if you can’t afford it.

According to a report from the National Center for Housing Policy, last year in Fayetteville the amount you need to make to afford a two-bedroom apartment increased by 9% to $34,000 a year. The average single mom in our state makes around $20,000, so it’s easy to see why she might be struggling. After paying the fair market rate of $816 a month, she’s left with about $850 to pay for food, utilities, and childcare.

And speaking of childcare, that cost is also increasing. The Center for American Progress recently released a report that states families pay between $6,500 and $11,000 a year for quality childcare. At the lowest cost, this can be more than $500 a month, leaving that statistically average woman from our last example with only $300 to feed her family and keep the lights on.

The outlook is fairly bleak, even for an average middle-income family in our state. According to the last census, the average household income in NC is around $46,000. Let’s give that family a mortgage payment of $1,000 a month and two kids in childcare at a conservative estimate of around $900 a month. That leaves them with about $900 each month to feed and clothe a family of four, pay medical expenses, and cover the utilities.

Been to the supermarket lately? Of course you have. So you probably couldn’t help but notice that those costs are increasing, too. The price of a full shopping cart 10 years ago only covers bread, eggs, and other essentials in today’s market. Fresh vegetables? Only for special occasions, kids.

That crunching noise you hear? That’s the sound of a million household budgets collapsing under the weight of increasing costs that aren’t met with wage raises. Individually each family tries to balance their budgets in more creative ways, but the real solution is on a statewide scale. If North Carolina wants to support its workers, it needs to truly step up. Here are four ways the state can improve the lives of working families now:

  1. Raise the minimum wage.  A $10.10 minimum wage benefits us all by creating a more robust economy and keeping dollars where they count.
  2. Bring back the earned income tax credit. The EITC was one of the best ways to get money into low- and middle-income workers’ pockets. The so-called tax decrease the state offered in its place doesn’t even come close to helping keep food on the table like the EITC did.
  3. Subsidize early childcare and provide pre-k to all 4-year-olds. Childcare is expensive, and our youngest residents are falling behind without universal pre-k. Supporting this is a win-win for families and kids.
  4. Reform the state’s Housing Finance Program to support more homebuyers. Home buying shouldn’t be just for the rich, and for many home buying is an affordable way to create long term stability.

How do you keep your home budget balanced when there’s a squeeze? What’s the one thing the state could change that would make you breathe a little easier? Answer in the comments or Tweet us @WomenAdvaNCeNC.




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