Pennsylvania is long overdue for an increase in its minimum wage, which has remained $7.25 since its last bump in 2010. Gov. Tom Wolf continued his push on Wednesday, noting the commonwealth is falling behind nationally, and trails our neighbors which have increased their wages in recent years.
Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, notes Pennsylvania’s current rate is equal to a dozen other states: Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Only two — Georgia and Wyoming, at $5.15 per hour — are lower.
We’ve long known the limited buying capacity that comes with a minimum wage salary. Yet, even as wages increase across the nation, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition says there is nowhere in the country where someone working a full-time minimum-wage job could afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. According to The Washington Post, in Arkansas — which has the cheapest housing in the country — an individual would need to make $13.84 an hour — about $29,000 a year — to afford a two-bedroom apartment there. The minimum wage in Arkansas is $8.50.
Pennsylvania continues to lag behind. Gov. Wolf’s tweet Wednesday included a map of Pennsylvania and neighboring states, noting higher minimum wages in New York ($10.40), Maryland ($9.25), West Virgina ($8.75), New Jersey ($8.60), Ohio ($8.30) and Delaware ($8.25). “A PA family of 2 earning minimum wage & working full-time falls below the poverty line, but the PA legislature hasn’t given workers a raise in 9 yrs. More than half the nation has raised their minimum wages, including all of PA’s neighbors — it’s time for PA to #RaiseTheWage,” Wolf tweeted.
“The housing crisis is growing, especially for the lowest-income workers,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The rents are far out of reach from what the average renter is earning.” In fact, the report notes downsizing doesn’t offer much relief, either. According to the report, a one-bedroom is affordable for minimum-wage workers in only 22 counties in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Those states all set their minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25.
Between 2006 and 2010, Pennsylvania used three steps to increase the wage from $5.15 to current levels of $7.25. A similar step increase over the next few years would give employers the opportunity to phase in increases, manage payroll and offer some needed relief for workers who are falling behind more each day.