Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) held their first annual national partner summit last week in Washington D.C. As a partner, the League was invited to participate and I was able to attend.
The event brought together 44 partners representing 38 statewide organizations advocating for women and girls. One of the highlights was the release of the Basic Economic Securities Table Initiative (BEST report), a measure for economic self-sufficiency.
The report serves as a benchmark on what individuals and families need to earn to not merely survive but to reach and maintain economic stability. According to the BEST report, most low-wage jobs fail to help families meet basic needs including housing, food, utilities, transportation, and child care.
The unemployment rate may be dropping, but working families in Michigan still can’t make ends meet with the job opportunities scantily provided. The report goes beyond basic self-sufficiency to indicate how much a family needs to earn and save in order to begin to accumulate assets. Reaching economic self-sufficiency is what families need to make ends meet but accumulating assets is how families get ahead.
The BEST report states that a single parent with two young children needs to earn an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to meet basic needs and save, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.
Michigan’s overall poverty rate in 2009 was at 16.2 percent, with 11.6 percent of families and 22.1 percent of children living in poverty. That means that a family of four living below the poverty line (earning about $22,000 a year or less) earns less than a third of what they need to be economically self-sufficient.
With a minimum wage of $7.40 an hour, new proposed limits to the Family Independence Program (cash assistance), and an upcoming six-week reduction in state-paid unemployment benefits, we are making it harder for families to reach economic stability. By providing a safety net and living wage jobs, we give families the ability to invest back into the local economy and their future.
After being saturated with the news of impending budget cuts across the safety net, WOW partners left the summit with a new tool and with that came some hope. The BEST report provides a benchmark for economic stability and a guide for policymakers to ensure a future of economic viability and prosperity for the state’s most vulnerable families and children. The message is simple: We need to not only provide jobs, we need to provide jobs that provide economic self-sufficiency.
– Anika Fassia