The minimum wage in Florida is currently set at $8.05, which means a 40-hour work week earns the average employee $322.
Assuming the employee, let’s call her Jess, never took a sick day or vacation and worked 40 hours for 52 weeks, that person would only earn $16,744 before taxes. The Federal poverty level for one person in 2016 is set at $11,800.
If Jess lived in Orlando and paid the average rent of $988 for a one bedroom apartment, that leaves her with just $4,888. This all before taxes — and utilities, groceries, car payments, gas, car insurance, medical expenses, health care, birth control, toiletries and her cell phone bill. That’s assuming Jess is the type of person who doesn’t subscribe to Netflix, doesn’t attend any sort of entertainment events and doesn’t have a pet.
Our Jess already qualifies for food stamps, something that is supposed to be a supplement for those in trying times, not a constant crutch. At most, Jess would get $357 a month to help with her groceries, equaling a maximum of $4,284. The cheapest healthcare options for Orlando residents under Obamacare is $257 a month. The average utilities for a 915-square-foot apartment is $126.89. The average annual car insurance payment in Orlando is $1,417. Let’s say Jess got a great deal on a car and only pays $200 a month, that’s still $2,400 a year. The average cost per gallon of gas is $1.97 in Orlando, so if Jess’ car hold 10 gallons, that’s $287.28 a year if she only fills up twice a month. Let’s pretend Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn’t trying to defund Planned Parenthood right now and say that Jess goes there and gets free birth control.
That’s a lot of numbers, yes, but what you need to know is that at the end of the day, Jess is left with a measly $461.04 dollars a year at most. This means Jess will never have an emergency fund; she won’t be able to create a savings account. If she ever has children, Jess won’t be able to pay for their college tuition, buy them presents at holidays or even throw them a birthday party.
Minimum wage is supposed to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees, according to a legal definition by Cornell University. Currently, minimum wage only provides enough to live if you’re extremely lucky in other aspects of your life. There’s no guarantee Jess would get the maximum amount of help for her groceries, let alone any help at all. There’s no way to guarantee that she pays the least amount possible for her car insurance and payments, utilities or rent.
Jess is standing on the fence of poverty, all because minimum wage hasn’t increased at the same rate as the cost of living or inflation. Minimum wage has increased 21 percent since 1990, while the cost of living has increased more than 65 percent, according to Mother Jones. It doesn’t help that Jess probably is expected to work during her time off by answering work emails and phone calls, so she’s putting in the extra time without getting compensated, something that 22 percent of Americans were expected to do in 2011.
Maybe you’re not in a position where you have to wonder whether or not you can afford to eat today, but someone is. Even if you don’t think you need to get paid more, people like Jess do.
Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.