Can you live $11 an hour in Colorado Springs? - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Can you live $11 an hour in Colorado Springs?

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Wages are going up in Colorado. The state minimum wage rose to $10.20 per hour on New Year's Day and Walmart just announced its starting wage will be $11 per hour.  So, how far does that money will go where we live?  

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator, Walmart employees in Colorado Springs would need work at least 40 hours per week to reach the $22,440 annual income that the economists say is necessary to afford to live here as a single adult. The living wage for a single parent raising one child more than doubles to $50,782 owing primarily to increased costs in child care, food, housing, and transportation.

Assuming that most Walmart employees work part-time, News 5 calculates that someone working a steady 28 hour per week would gross about $1,324 a month, just enough to no longer qualify for food stamps.  According to the El Paso County Department of Human Services, the maximum monthly gross income you can earn and still collect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits is $1,307. 

Karen Logan, Director of Economic and Administrative Services for El Paso County explained that SNAP benefit applicants can claim a number of deductions to try and get their "net" income to reach the maximum threshold of $1,005 per month.

Logan said that wage increases by a large employer like Walmart will positively impact the local economy because it puts pressure on other employers in the community to raise wages as well.

"I think it's exciting that such a big organization is doing that, or a big employer is doing that because my hope is then that other employers will maybe follow suit and start investing in our community again because when you invest in people through wages, and things like that, you're basically investing in the community."

Fewer people are using SNAP benefits in El Paso County. In 2015, more than 71,000 people in El Paso County received food stamps. In 2017 that number fell to 65,788.

Logan wants viewers to know that even if they get much of a direct benefit in food assistance, it can still be worth the effort to check because qualifying for SNAP may help in other aspects of life.

"If I am receiving food assistance, even a small amount, I may qualify for free and reduced lunches for my kids at school, I may qualify for a reduced amount for my kids to play in sports and things like that. And so, there are other things that go along with that."

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