The living wage for a single adult is $15.77 per hour. This reflects what is needed to meet basic needs and maintain some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead. The living wage for a single adult with two children is $29.08 per hour.
Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50 does not allow working families to make ends meet. The state’s minimum wage provides less than half of a living wage for a single adult and just over a quarter of the living wage for a single adult with two children.
“At one point, I was evicted and had to stay in the homeless shelter for a while until we could get help with a down payment for an apartment. The whole time I was working full time.”
I have been in the retail industry half my life. Much of the last decade I spent as a single mom, struggling to make ends meet on wages that didn’t pay enough to cover my expenses. Several years ago, I was making just over the minimum wage, about eight dollars an hour, newly single with a six year old son, trying to find appropriate housing for us.
It was hard to find stable child care that I could afford, and I went through many different jobs because of this. And no matter how hard I tried, there was no way I could afford $900 to $1,000 a month for rent. I had a car payment for a car that wasn’t even safe, but was my only way to get to work.
At one point, I was evicted and had to stay in the homeless shelter for a while until we could get help with a down payment for an apartment. The whole time I was working full time.
I’ve been working for the past two and a half years as a cashier at a gas station. I work forty hours a week for $9.05 an hour, and the only raises I’ve gotten since I started have been about 20 cents an hour. I work the morning shift from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m., but the days I am asked to work vary each week. We find out Friday afternoon what we are working the next week, starting that following Monday.
I rent a two-bedroom apartment with my new husband Matt and my son Max. My husband works three 12-hour overnights in Portland every week (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), and makes just $11 an hour.
We scrape by to make the bills, but have nothing in savings, which means that we don’t have anything extra for any unexpected expenses. Every major expense needs to be planned out months ahead of time. My son’s birthday is coming up next month and we are slowly trying to get a few things together for him. I try to make his life as normal as possible but that isn’t always easy.
I don’t have a retirement account of any kind. Maine did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and my son Max and I recently lost our MaineCare coverage. We’re buy coverage under the new health insurance exchange and can barely make the payment each month.
If I was paid more, I could fix the problems with the car, buy new shoes before they are completely worn out, and have a savings plan in case of emergencies.