Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent

Posted on December 6, 2018

A worker in Louisiana earning the minimum wage would have to work 76 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  Louisiana does not have a state minimum wage and relies on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009 and has lost 12.9 percent of its purchasing power since that time. The report also paints a grim picture for affordable housing across the nation.

A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 needs to work approximately 122 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately three full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the national fair market rent. The same worker needs to work 99 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately two and a half full-time jobs, to afford a one-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent. In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a worker earning the federal minimum wage or prevailing state minimum wage afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour work week. In only 22 counties out of more than 3,000 counties nationwide can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. These 22 counties are all located in states with a minimum wage higher than $7.25.

ICYMI: LBP’s Jamie Carson recently discussed the minimum wage in Louisiana on WRKF’s Capitol Access.


Record number of Louisiana schools provide free meals to all students
A record number of Louisiana schools have adopted the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools or districts with large percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. This creates administrative efficiencies for school meal programs and means that students are guaranteed to receive a hot, nutritious meal regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. LBP’s Danny Mintz breaks down the impact of the CEP for Louisiana students:

New data from the Louisiana Department of Education shows that more than 90 percent of eligible schools – enrolling 479,000 students – are taking advantage of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of federal law. Nationally, only 55 percent of eligible schools were participating in the program as of the 2016-17 school year. … The number of participating schools has tripled since 2014-15, when the program first became available in Louisiana. Since the 2017-18 school year alone, increased school participation has led to 15,500 additional children being served free and healthy meals each day.


Manufacturing tax break debate continues
A faith-based group in Baton Rouge is raising objections to changes made by the East Baton Rouge School Board to guidelines for handling requests for industrial tax exemptions. The parish school system adopted guidelines very similar to those approved by the East Baton Rouge Metro Council that ties lucrative tax breaks for manufacturers to job creation, but added new language that Together Baton Rouge sees as a massive loophole. The Advocate’s Charles Lussier reports:

In an email to its members, urging them to come out in force against the new guidelines, Together Baton Rouge blasted that added language as a “massive loophole.” “‘Environmental projects’ is defined so broadly that virtually every application would qualify,” according to the email. “That means that every project would qualify, without having to create a single job.” …  In its Wednesday email, Together Baton Rouge raised several objections. It criticized new language saying that the new guidelines would apply only to ITEP exemption requests begun after Aug. 20. The organization wants the new guidelines to apply to a handful of already completed projects that are in the pipeline but have yet to receive ITEP exemption, including a handful from ExxonMobil. The organization wants to use the added tax revenue from denying these ITEP requests to increase the salaries of school employee as well as for other educational purposes.

(Full disclosure: LBP Director Jan Moller is a member of the Board of Commerce & Industry, which oversees ITEP.)


Louisiana senators divided on criminal justice reform
There is broad, bipartisan support for a package of criminal justice reforms currently making its way through Congress, but Louisiana’s two senators stand on opposing sides of the legislation. Sen. Bill Cassidy supports the First Step Act, which would ease mandatory minimum prison terms and give federal judges more discretion at sentencing, while Sen. John Kennedy, a frequent critic of historic criminal justice reforms in his home state, stands in opposition. The Advocate’s Bryn Stole reports on the impact of the legislation.

The First Step Act would reduce mandatory minimum federal prison sentences for drug-related crimes and offer early release to some prisoners suffering from severe and chronic illnesses. The House of Representatives passed a similar prison reform bill in May but senators have since added additional provisions. The proposed legislation would eliminate a long-criticized disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine offenses and retroactively shorten sentences for those already serving lengthy prison terms for crack offenses. The bill would also put millions more into rehabilitation and screening programs for federal inmates and offer prisoners who complete classes points toward possible earlier release dates.


Number of the Day
$717 – Monthly “fair market” rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Louisiana. A worker would need to make $14.07 per hour to make that affordable – which would require 76 hours per week of work at the $7.25 federal minimum wage (Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition)


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