CASPER, Wyo. — What does it cost to be self-sufficient in Wyoming? A single adult working full time needs to earn at least $10.24/hr.
That’s according to “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Wyoming 2020” prepared by Dr. Diana M. Pearce for the Wyoming Women’s Foundation in Feb. 2020.
“A single adult needs to earn $10.24 per hour working full time to be able to meet his or her basic needs, which is nearly three dollars per hour more
than the federal minimum wage rate ($7.25 per hour in 2020) or double Wyoming’s minimum wage rate of $5.15 per hour,” the report states.
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In Natrona County, a single adult paying $780 a month on housing, $254 a month on food, $267 a month on transportation, $177 on health care cost, $148 on essential items such as clothing and hygiene products and $233 in taxes (state sales and use tax, payroll tax) needs to earn $10.56/hr to be self sufficient, according to the Wyoming Women’s Foundation’s 2020 Self-Sufficency Calculator. The calculator can be adjusted for family size and the various costs for people to gauge what the minimum hourly wage they would need to make for self-sufficiency.
$780 in housing costs per month is close to the most recent statewide rental costs. The Wyoming Economic Analysis Division released a report in Oct. 2020 that found average rental costs in the state during the second quarter of 2020 were $781:
While the federal minimum age of $7.25/hr isn’t enough for a single adult to be self-sufficient in Wyoming, Wyoming’s U.S. Senator John Barrasso said on Wednesday that doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would harm small businesses in the state and cost the nation jobs.
Barrasso’s comments came after Democrats in both chambers of the U.S. Congress introduced legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr by 2025.
Vermont’s U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said in a press release Tuesday the “Raise the Wage Act of 2021” would help lift people out of poverty.
“Let’s be clear. The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage,” Sanders said. “No person in America can make it on $8, $10, or $12 an hour. In the United States of America a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage—at least $15 an hour.”
“And when we do that, not only will we be lifting millions of Americans out of poverty, we will be providing a raise to over 33 million workers. We can no longer tolerate millions of workers not being able to afford to feed their families or pay the rent. The time for talk is over. No more excuses.”
Barrasso, however, said during a speech from the Senate floor Wednesday that the “doubling the minimum wage is going to hurt small businesses and force them to lay off employees.”
“In 2019, well before the pandemic hit, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that mandating a $15 minimum wage nationwide would lead to 1.3 million fewer Americans working,” Barrasso said. “At a time when 10 million Americans are unemployed due to our pandemic, 1.3 million Americans more can’t afford to lose their jobs.”
Barrasso said the proposal would hurt Wyoming.
“Maybe the president’s idea of national unity is national uniformity,” he said. “But that doesn’t work in Wyoming, or for the people of Wyoming.”
The senator described a conversation he said he had with an owner of a Sinclair gas station in Lovell, Wyoming on Sunday.
“He called me on Sunday,” Barrasso said. “Said $15 an hour, he has a station, the food court next to it in Lovell—he said we’d have to shut down the food court. Can’t afford $15 an hour for the young people who are working there, putting money in their pockets, providing food and services to the people of the community.”
“Doubling the minimum wage is going to hurt small businesses and force them to lay off employees. Like what will likely happen in Lovell, Wyoming and all across the Cowboy State.”
While a single adult might be able to scrape by in Wyoming on a wage under $15/hr, such a wage isn’t enough in any county of the state for one adult raising one pre-school aged child, according to Pearce’s report.
The report found that Uinta County had the lowest necessary wage on a full time job for one adult raising one preschooler at $16.22/hour. In Natrona, a single parent with one pre-school aged child would need to make at least $18.39/hour on a full-time job to be self-sufficient:
Another table in the report shows that the cost for a single parent with a preschooler and a K-12 grader needs to make a wage that is 313% of the federal minimum wage on a full time job to be self sufficient:
The report details how the self-sufficiency standard is calculated as follows: