Report: Nearly 900,000 MD Households Economically Insecure
Friday, May 5, 2023
A new report found tens of thousands of Maryland households were made financially insecure by the pandemic.
The report puts the number of financially insecure households in the state at nearly 900,000, with an increase of 70,000 since the beginning of COVID.
The "Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed" project was initiated by the United Way of Northern New Jersey in 2009. The report attempted to capture the financial circumstances of working people who still cannot afford the basics such as housing, food, health care and child care.
Overall, nearly 40 % of households in Maryland were financially insecure in 2021, with 10% below the Federal Poverty Level, and another 28% in the category experiencing difficulties. The report said among the 20 most common occupations in Maryland in 2021, 55% paid less than $20 an hour.
Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland, noted while living wage advocates have attempted to raise the minimum wage closer to $20 an hour, in many places it is still not enough.
"There's this hyperfixation around the country on the term living wage or thriving wage or survivable wage," Baker observed. "But at the end of the day, $20 per hour is still not at a place where you're really thriving as a family. And so you're really just trying to survive at 20 bucks an hour."
A Federal Reserve survey last year showed 32% of all adults did not have $400 for an unexpected economic emergency.
While many people in poverty, or just above the Federal Poverty Line qualify for federal and state benefits such as SNAP or Medicaid, many middle income households do not. People working who get a raise or are promoted often face a sudden drop-off in benefits advocates refer to as a 'benefits cliff'.
Baker argued legislators need to change the eligibility requirements so the impact of benefits loss is more gradual.
"There's legislation in many states in the queue or has already been passed, that essentially can delay the impact," Baker explained. "Instead of an immediate impact, it's over the course of multiple years. So it's a gradual hit in the loss of eligibility for certain benefits that they've become reliant upon."
During the pandemic many households were kept afloat by expanded federal supports which have since ended. The study's authors estimated the cost of living for a family of four renting a residence in the state in 2021 was more than $80,000 dollars per year. Incomes providing a middle class living a few years ago now leave families struggling to make ends meet and leave almost no room for savings, they added.
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