A report released today shows nearly one-third of Iowans struggle to afford basic living expenses. Deann Cook is executive director of United Ways of Iowa, which issued the statewide study.
“This report indicates that over 381,000 households in Iowa, or 31-percent of the state’s total, are unable basic cost-of-living in their county,” Cook said. Around 12-percent of Iowans are below the federal poverty line, but Cook says that federal level is “outdated” and thousands of Iowans above the line are living paycheck to paycheck.
“And, most often, they have nothing left to navigate any unexpected expenses they may have such as a car repair, an illness, or a job loss,” Cook said. Heather Hennings is the president and CEO of the United Way of Siouxland and the incoming United Ways of Iowa Board Chair. She says wages in Iowa are failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.
“Sixty-eight-percent of all jobs in Iowa pay less than $20 an hour and most of those actually pay between $10 and $15 an hour,” Hennings said. The report could fuel more debate over efforts to raise the minimum wage in the state.
“There are a lot of people who are working hard, playing by the rules…and we live in a country where you think, if you do work hard, you should be able to support your family. In some cases, that’s not happening,” Hennings said.
The United Ways of Iowa represents 25 local United Ways that serve more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties.