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A Livable Income in Wyoming Varies by County

Two new reports show what it takes for Wyoming families to get by without public or private assistance. (Wyoming Women's Foundation)
Two new reports show what it takes for Wyoming families to get by without public or private assistance. (Wyoming Women's Foundation)
May 24, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Two new reports released today by the Wyoming Women's Foundation show what it takes for families to get by without public or private assistance, and how to achieve economic security.

The first report calculates a Self-Sufficiency Standard for each county based on "bare bones" budgets that, for example, include groceries in food costs but no restaurant meals.

The second suggests ways families can create an emergency fund.

Sarah McCance, executive director of the Foundation, says the state's median wage just hasn't kept up with the cost of living.

"When you look at the numbers you can say, 'Okay, wow, we're really far behind,'" she says. "And when you look at the wages - or how adequate they are to cover a family's expenses, their basic needs - you can really see that there is a gap."

The report says to meet those basic needs, a single parent with one preschool-aged child needs to earn at least $14 an hour in Platte County, and more than $25 in Teton County - both well above Wyoming's minimum hourly wage of $7.25.

McCance notes for families with children, housing and child-care costs can account for up to 75 percent of monthly budgets.

The study says work-support programs, including child-care assistance, food stamps and Medicaid, are critical to help families get closer to economic security.

McCance adds with the recent downturn in the energy sector, she's hopeful the research will be useful to decision-makers.

"We do hope our policymakers and legislators will look at that and say, 'Something needs to give a little bit,'" she says. "And hopefully it could spur some change at the policy level."

McCance says targeted training for higher-earning jobs could also help families experiencing hardship turn things around.

"People are living this today, right now in Wyoming, and it might help some families out there make sense of why they feel like times are so tough," says McCance.

The last time Self-Sufficiency Standards were calculated for the state was in 2007.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY