Thursday, October 05, 2000

Living wages in Ky. deplored

Report: Single parents struggle to get by

The Associated Press

        The days when a single parent could mop floors for a living and still support two children are over, which is proven by a just-released report, said Linda Young, executive director of Covington-based Welcome House.

        Child care, health insurance and massive jumps in rental rates present major challenges for today's single parents, she said.

        “For many of our families, having a job is not the issue. It's whether they can sustain their families on what they make,” Ms. Young said. “We've got an economy that has increased its service sector but doesn't pay enough to sustain their families. Yet we still need those families to sustain the jobs.

        “In a society that values families, we're really talking out of both sides of our mouth.”

        Welcome House operates a homeless shelter and offers 20 apartments to single parents trying to become self-sufficient.

        On Tuesday, Kentucky Youth Advocates, a Frankfort-based nonprofit lobbying group, released the report, “Left Behind in Kentucky.'' It concludes that many families in Kentucky's two largest cities are not earning enough money to buy food and clothes, pay their bills, and purchase health insurance.

        In Louisville, single parents with two children would have to earn between $11.92 and $15.48 an hour to provide the family's basic needs. In Lexington, the same family would have to earn $11.39 to $15.10 an hour, the group said.

        There were no ranges for Northern Kentucky cities, but Ms. Young estimated that a single parent would need to make about $20,000 a year to meet basic needs.

        The report recommends several ways to increase incomes, from expanding tax credits for the poor to enacting ordinances requiring employers to pay “a living wage,” the hourly income a family would need to pay for basic needs.

        The group looked at ex penses for items such as rent, food bills, utilities and clothing.

        Debra Miller, the executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the purpose of the report was to spur discussion by government officials and employers about paying workers more.

        Abby Hughes, a policy analyst for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said 40 communities in the United States have enacted some type of “living-wage” ordinance.

        In Ohio, Cleveland and Toledo have enacted such ordinances. Lexington and Louisville residents are campaigning for similar pieces of legislation.

        Ms. Miller said a state earned-income tax credit — modeled after the federal one — would go far to help poor families.

        According to the report, if the General Assembly provided such a credit, families who qualified would get a refund of up to $572 on their state income tax. About 309,000 families would be eligible for the credit, which would help families with incomes of up to $30,580.

       Enquirer reporter Susan Vela contributed.


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