Based on data from the Economic Policy Institute, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) recently reported that 28 percent of those who would benefit from a living wage are parents.
Financial uncertainty causes a great deal of stress for parents, and almost inevitably puts them in periods of debt which further strains their finances. But it’s not just the parents that suffer – the children in these families are also negatively affected.
“Parents have to make tradeoffs in what they can and can’t afford, and sometimes that results in skipping dental treatment for their children, for instance, or being late on an electric bill, making it harder for children to get homework done,” said David Loeb, PCCY’s research associate. “PCCY has also spoken with parents who have to routinely skip meals just to put food on the table for their children, and sometimes even that’s not enough to make sure their children are fully fed.”
On top of that, Loeb added when parents have such limited room in their budget, they can’t afford enrichment activities for their children – things like tutoring or music lessons, things that aid children’s development and give them a leg up in school and in life. This puts their children at a major disadvantage and makes it more likely that this cycle of financial stress will continue for future generations.
Childcare is a major issue for working parents. The cost is enormous – even having just one child in care will typically cost more than $10,000 a year in Philadelphia. “The state has a program that provides childcare subsidies to low income families, but due to inadequate funding, less than half of eligible families actually receive the subsidy,” said Loeb. “So, most families are forced to either bite the bullet and pay the full cost of care or find less reliable options such as leaving the children with a neighbor or relative. In the latter case, children are likely missing out on a stimulating childcare environment that nurtures their development at this critical stage in their lives.”
PCCY has long advocated for raising the minimum wage. Although PCCY doesn’t typically speak directly to legislators about raising wages, the organization has repeatedly put out calls to raise the minimum wage over the years, including in their new series of reports titled Underwater which details the financial stress facing families in each of the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania.
“We have also supported Governor Wolf’s proposals to raise the minimum wage during each year of his tenure, though unfortunately the legislature has yet to heed his call. More specifically, we’ve successfully lobbied to increase the rate at which public pre-k and childcare providers are reimbursed by the State which can enable these providers to boost the wages of their teachers while remaining fiscally solvent,” said Loeb.
And while it was not a direct living wage bill, PCCY was active in organizing support for Philadelphia City Council’s fair workweek bill, which, among other things, allows working parents to arrange their schedules in advance so that they can more easily arrange child care and make it to all of their shifts and thus claim all of their potential wages.
The city has taken a major stride towards mandating living wages by increasing the minimum wage for city workers and contractors to $15 per hour. Each year will see gradual increases in wages until 2022 when it reaches $15. Unfortunately, state law prevents the city from raising the minimum wage for all workers in Philadelphia, so it was limited to making this increase for only those who work for or do business with the city.
However, Loeb concluded there are other ways to pressure businesses in the city to boost their wages, such as providing incentives for businesses who pay their workers a living wage. The city could also lobby state legislators to enact the repeated calls that Governor Wolf has made to increase the minimum wage statewide.
This story is part of our collaboration with Broke In Philly, a news media initiative among 19 local news organizations to provide in-depth, nuanced and solutions-oriented reporting on the issues of poverty and the push for economic justice in Philadelphia.