Across Montezuma County, a single mother with a preschooler making minimum wage must work more than two full-time jobs in order to make ends meet.
The alarming statistic was recently revealed in a Southwest Colorado Index Livable Wages report produced by Region 9 Economic District of Southwest Colorado. By comparison, the same single mother with a preschooler in La Plata County would be required to work nearly three minimum wage jobs.
“A livable wage addresses the essential financial needs for basic living tools such as shelter, health care, childcare, and nutrition,” the report stated. “When one earns less than a livable wage, he or she is forced to make undesirable choices such as working two or more jobs, working longer hours, making longer commutes, sharing a residence or giving up basic items such as a telephone or insurance.”
Across Colorado, the amount needed to be economically self-sufficient varies considerably by geographic location. The 2015 Colorado minimum wage is $8.23 per hour, which amounts to $17,382 per year working full time.
Using housing and childcare costs specific to each community in the region, the report found that Durango was the most expensive community for a single mother with a preschooler. There, the single mother would need to earn an hourly wage of $23.24 because of the high cost of housing.
Dove Creek was the least expensive community for the specific demographic, which required an hourly wage of $16.49. By comparison, a single mother in Dolores would need to earn $17.58 per hour; Cortez, $19.69 per hour; and Mancos, $18.29 per hour.
The recent Southwest Colorado Index Livable Wages report is the first of its kind since 2008. It measured the economic, social and environmental health for Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties.
Last year, Democrats in Denver attempted to raise the state’s minimum wage, or at the very least, empower local governments to do so. A separate resolution would have sent a ballot question to voters asking them to gradually raise the minimum wage from $8.23 to $12.50 per hour by 2020.
Both efforts failed, with much of the opposition coming from Republicans and business interests.