DES MOINES — Nearly one in four working Iowans isn’t making enough to meet basic living expenses, according to a report released Thursday by the Iowa Policy Project.
“Many Iowans are working day-in and day-out but are not meeting basic needs,” Lily French said in a conference call Thursday. French is a research associate with the group and one of the authors of the report.
The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that reports on public policy issues.
The report uses a measure that is roughly double the federal poverty to benchmark what “basic needs” for a family with at least one parent is working would be.
For example, according to the report, a single working parent with one child needs to earn $32,276 to meet basic needs. The 2011 federal poverty line for that same person is $14,710.
“We call it a survival budget,” French said, noting that working parents often have to budget for items such as child care and transportation, which a non-working parent wouldn’t necessarily have to.
“We didn’t budget for education, family travel or gifts, retirement or savings for emergencies,” French said.
According to the report, Iowa ranks first in the nation in the percentage of families with children under 6 who have both parents in the work force at 75.6 percent.
Overall, the report says that roughly 23 percent of working families don’t make enough to meet basic needs, but the problem is exacerbated for single parents with children where nearly three of every four, or 74 percent, don’t make enough to meet basic expenses.
Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said increasing family incomes is a goal of the governor. Branstad is in China this week on a trade visit.
“Gov. Branstad understands that working families benefit when they are able to provide for themselves with a quality, high-paying career,” Albrecht said. “The governor will continue to work on removing the tax and regulatory barriers that are preventing Iowa from reaching his goals of 200,000 new jobs and a 25 percent increase in family incomes.”
The report, however, makes some specific recommendations to improve what it calls the wage gap in the state, including raising income eligibility for child care assistance and creating a state-run program to help people with housing costs. Child care assistance is currently at 145 percent the poverty line.
“Wages that are available in the state of Iowa aren’t enough to cover basic working expenses,” French said.