Budget calculator shows what it takes to get by


Special to Civitas Media



The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has released an update to its signature Family Budget Calculator, which shows what’s required for families to attain a secure yet modest standard of living in 618 communities throughout the country, including seven across Kentucky.

The Family Budget Calculator is a stark reminder that many jobs in Kentucky do not pay workers enough to meet their family’s basic needs.

According to EPI, a two-parent, two-child family in Kentucky must earn at least $4,184 a month, or an annual total of $57,763, to make ends meet. Meanwhile, it costs at least $24,906 for a single person without children to meet his or her basic needs, which is well above what a minimum-wage worker earns in a year. For reference, a worker who earns $7.25 an hour earns $15,080 a year before taxes.

A breakdown of the monthly costs for a two-parent, two-child family by location in Kentucky (annual needs in parenthesis):

• Rural areas, $4,834 ($58,005)

• Lexington: $5,074 ($60,883)

• Louisville: $5,064 ($60,764)

• Elizabethtown: $4,184 ($57,763)

• Owensboro: $4,898 ($58,780)

• Bowling Green: $4,935 ($59,218)

• Ashland: $4,996 ($59,949)

While many policy changes are needed for more Kentuckians to achieve a decent standard of living, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Communications Director Kenny Colston noted that one concrete step the state could make is to raise the outdated minimum wage.

“In no place in Kentucky, from Paducah to Pikeville, does the current minimum wage provide nearly enough income for people to get by,” Colston said. “We encourage our state leaders to recognize reality and pass a statewide minimum wage increase in the next legislative session, which will make a big difference in families’ ability to afford transportation, childcare or other essentials to a productive life.”

EPI’s Family Budget Calculator improves on traditional poverty thresholds by taking into account geographic differences in cost of living and factoring in a broader range of expenses. The federal poverty line, which was created to measure serious economic deprivation, is set at the national level and does not account for community-specific costs.

The Family Budget Calculator includes the cost of housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and other basic necessities such as clothing and household supplies. Costs vary widely by family type as well as geographic area. Notably, among two-parent, two-child families, child care costs exceed rent in the vast majority of family budget areas.

Three major changes were included in this family budget update. In addition to four new family types (single and married couples without children and families with four children), the new health cost calculation reflects premiums available in the health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, and the “other necessities” category includes additional items previously excluded, such as housekeeping supplies and telephone services.

For more information on EPI’s family budget in Kentucky, contact Kenny Colston at [email protected] or 502-938-1817.

You can view the calculator at http://www.epi.org/90061/preview/05e2018819e62c273baa350f2abe6008659b141b048e36a2b083809c35aaaeed/?nocache.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative that conducts research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Launched in 2011, the Center is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).

Special to Civitas Media

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