Reporter Heidi Evans of The New York Daily News was asked by her newspaper to try living for a week on minimum wage and then write about it. It seems New York legislators are considering raising the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.10 and the newspaper thought it might be worthwhile to see what life is like at the current rate.
First, she cried.
“I don’t want to be a hobo,” my 9-year-old daughter told me.
That was her reaction when she learned that the Daily News wanted us to experience and write about life on minimum wage – $5.15 an hour, or $206 before taxes for a 40-hour workweek in New York City.
Without knowing much, she intuitively was on to something that 700,000 working-poor New Yorkers know: It is impossible to live on $206 a week, or $892 a month—if you like living indoors, or want to put in a full day’s work but can’t afford to pay a baby-sitter from 3 to 6 p.m. during the school week. Or if you have grown weary of begging and borrowing from every friend, relative and credit card each week just to survive.
The basic facts are enough to make a grown person cry.
I just checked and the minimum wage here in Michigan is also only $5.15 an hour. I haven’t worked for minimum wage in a long time and when I did I was a teenager living at home so it wasn’t a big deal as it got me gas and movie money to hang out with my friends with. I can’t imagine trying to live on a mere $5.15 an hour let alone take care of my family on it. Even with two parents working minimum wage I can’t imagine how people do it. Yet some folks manage to pull it off just the same.
I admit that I’m a little spoiled in that I have a family of three that manages to live on my income alone. There are days I wonder how I’m going to make ends meet, but the truth is if I got rid of some of my toys I’d have no problems making ends meet and I always seem to find a way in the end. I have no solution to the poverty issue and I wish I were smart enough to figure it out as I’m fortunate to have had the money to spoil myself with.