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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trying to stay alive

By Steve Ahlquist in Rhode Island’s Future
Cost of Living Calculator

A “single-parent, with an infant (age 0-1) and a school-aged child (age 6-12) needs to earn $62,693 a year or $30.14/hour to cover the basic expenses required to raise a family in Rhode Island,” says the Economic Progress Institute, (EPI, formerly The Poverty Institute) a nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders. “More than one-fourth of that family’s expenses will go towards child care; a whopping $1,446 a month.”

The EPI released this sobering news along with an updated version of its Cost of Living Calculator, designed to provide “a more realistic measure of economic security than the commonly used federal poverty level (FPL) which measures economic security based on the cost of food,” according to a press release. “The Calculator allows users to see what it costs families of different sizes to pay for housing, child care, health care, food, transportation and taxes and then calculates the pre-tax (gross) income they need to meet their expenses.”

Rhode Island’s recent move to raise the minimum wage from $9 to $9.60 is not nearly sufficient says the EPI, since a “single adult without children needs to earn $24,640 a year or $11.85/hour to meet his or her basic needs.”

In addition to the Cost of Living Calculator, the EPI also publishes a “comprehensive ‘Guide to Assistance’ explaining the government assistance programs and community resources available to help individuals and families meet basic needs including food assistance, tax credits, and child care subsidies which can all help lower-wage working families make ends meet.”

“We hope these tools serve to better educate the public and policymakers about the cost-of-living in the Ocean State and the importance of government assistance programs for the large number of Rhode Islanders working in low-wage jobs” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute, in the press release. 

“Many people often don’t realize they are eligible for help paying for basic needs like child care and food.  We encourage Rhode Islanders who are struggling to pay the bills to review the Guide to see if they qualify for assistance.”

Steve Ahlquist is a writer, artist and current president of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member. His photos and video are usable under the Creative Commons license. Free to share with credit. and Twitter: @SteveAhlquist