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MI Report: Working Hard for the (little bit) of Money

October 15, 2008

Lansing, MI - In Michigan, having a full-time job is no guarantee you'll make enough to cover the basics, according to a report from the "Working Poor Families Project." In fact, the number of working families with low incomes is on the rise, and one out of four such families is at the bottom of the salary ladder.

Judy Putnam with the Michigan League for Human Services says 300,000 working families, which include more than 600,000 children, are struggling to make ends meet -- even though their heads of household are working full-time.

"We're hearing a lot this election season about the middle-class worker, but it's these low-income families that we really must focus our attention on."

Putnam says Michigan's "No Worker Left Behind" project is one way to help families. Through it, workers can receive two-year grants for community college tuition to build their work skills for high-demand jobs. She says the problem is that the program is underfunded, with more than 9,000 on the waiting list.

Putnam says most people agree that a sense of fairness comes into play.

"You work hard and you work full-time. You shouldn't be wondering where your next meal is coming from."

Report author Brandon Roberts says it's important to remember that Michigan families lost ground on wages even before the current economic downturn.

"From 2002 to 2006, a period many considered to be one of robust economic growth, both the number and the percentage of low-income working families in this country increased."

Nationally, 42 million adults and children live in low-income working families.

The full report can be found at www.workingpoorfamilies.org.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MI