Drawing the poverty line: Obama's proposed bump in minimum wage would still leave full-time workers poorIf a proposal President Barack Obama made in his State of the Union address Tuesday night goes through, those working full-time making minimum wage would still be living below the poverty line.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
If a proposal President Barack Obama made in his State of the Union address Tuesday night goes through, those working full-time making minimum wage would still be living below the poverty line.
Obama said he wants to increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour, or $18,720 per year before taxes for someone working full-time at that wage. Someone making $7.25 per hour, the current minimum wage, makes $15,080 per year before taxes if working full-time.
The federal poverty line, a number at which eligibility for benefits is based, is $19,530 for a family of three. That number increases with the number of children in a household.
“Child Care Assistance — the only deduction that would come off of the income would be if they pay out any child support,” said Carol Cartledge, director of economic assistance for the North Dakota Department of Human Services. “Whereas some of the other programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has many deductions, and those are federally driven.”
While some benefits are based on the federal poverty line, others are based on the state median income, she said. A family of three can make no more than $2,548 per month, or $30,576 per year, to qualify for some benefits.
In the second half of fiscal year 2012, ending in September, North Dakotans used more than $130.7 million in funding through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care Assistance and SNAP, three major assistance programs that are often talked about as “welfare,” according to information from the state Department of Human Services.
The average benefit of the 1,717 per month TANF recipients in North Dakota was $294 per month, Cartledge said. The actual benefit is based on need and the number of people in the household.
“The majority of those are going to be single parents,” she said of TANF recipients. “Whereas under (programs) like SNAP and (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) would be families with children and elderly.”
The average SNAP benefit was $280 per month, according to DHS data. Those utilizing SNAP are usually
families and the elderly, Cartledge said.
There were an average of 27,376 cases per month on SNAP in North Dakota in the second half of FY 2012, according to DHS data.
“And child care, by the nature of the program, has to be families with children,” Cartledge said. “They all have the same element of low-income families or individuals.”
The average benefit for that program was $385 per family.
Recipients of benefits are required to report any changes in income, like a raise or new job, as they happen, but, depending on the program, agencies will check in periodically.
“Every six months their case is reviewed, that would be for snap,” Cartledge said. “Under TANF, which is a little bit different because it’s cash assistance, that one is every month they have to provide information and update on what is happening in their household.”
The same goes for those renting from MetroPlains Management, which runs tax-credit based low-income housing in Dickinson, Devils Lake, Buelah and Turtle River, Assistant Vice President Patty Jabs said. They check in at least once a year.
Because a lot of the residents in their properties get rental assistance, the government will confront those misrepresenting their income, and they are required to pay back any unqualified for assistance, she said.
“A lot of the people that need housing in this area are over income,” Jabs said. “They don’t qualify for these apartments that we have.”
Most of their clients are single parents, because a two-income household would push the limit.
“I’ve had folks working at Taco John’s, both of them, and they’re over,” Jabs said.