Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 17, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Making Ends Meet in Arizona


  • How much income do Arizona families need to make ends meet? Find out when we examine the results of the 2012 Self-Sufficiency Standard for Arizona report from the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona.
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: making, ends, meet, Arizona, income, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: HOW MUCH DOES IT TAKE FOR ARIZONA FAMILIES TO MEET BASIC NEEDS WITHOUT PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ASSISTANCE? A NEW STUDY ROOKS LOOKS AT SELF SUFFICIENCY STANDARDS IN THE STATE. IT'S A REPORT COMMISSIONED BY THE WOMEN'S FOUNDATION OF SOUTHERN ARIZONA. EARLIER I SPOKE WITH THE AUTHOR OF THE REPORT, DR. DIANA PEARCE, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR WOMEN'S WELFARE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK. AND LAURA PENNY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WOMEN'S FOUNDATION OF SOUTHERN ARIZONA. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TONIGHT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS REPORT. WHAT DID YOU LOOK AT?

Diana Pearce: WE LOOKED AT WHAT IT COST TO MEET YOUR BASIC NEEDS AT MINIMALLY ADEQUATE LEVELS. IT'S A REAL BARE BONES BUDGET DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU LIVE AND WHAT YOUR FAMILY CONFIGURATION IS, KIDS, AGES.

Ted Simons: THE IDEA OF MAKING ENDS MEET, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? DEFINE THAT TERM.

Diana Pearce: IT'S HOW MUCH YOU NEED TO PAY FOR HOUSING, FOR FOOD, FOR CHILD CARE, FOR HEALTH CARE TO GET THE MINIMUM, TO GET, FOR THE FOOD BUDGET, FOR EXAMPLE, IS JUST YOUR GROCERIES, NO TAKEOUT OR RESTAURANT FOOD. NOT A PIZZA, NOT A LATTE IN THERE. JUST WHAT YOU NEED MEET YOUR NUTRITION NEEDS. AND MEET THOSE NEEDS BUT NOT BEYOND THAT.

Ted Simons: WITHOUT PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ASSISTANCE?

Diana Pearce: RIGHT. NO HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT, LIKE NO FOOD STAMPS OR ANYTHING TO HELP WITH FOOD BUT ALSO NO HELP FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHO MIGHT SHARE HOUSING OR PROVIDE BABY-SIT.

Ted Simons: WITH THAT IN MIND, ONE ADULT WITH TWO KIDS HAS TO EARN $51,000 A YEAR TO MAKE, THOSE BASIC ENDS MEET?

Laura Penny: IN MARICOPA COUNTY.

Ted Simons: YES.

Laura Penny: YES.

Ted Simons: THAT'S A SURPRISING NUMBER.

Laura Penny: IT IS. I THINK IT'S BEEN SURPRISING TO EVERYBODY WHO HAS SEEN THE REPORT. BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT CONSTITUTES THAT $51,000, IT STARTS TO MAKE SENSE TO PEOPLE.

Ted Simons: TALK TO US ABOUT THAT.

Laura Penny: FOR INSTANCE, A THREE-PERSON FAMILY, TWO CHILDREN, YOU THINK ABOUT A TWO BEDROOM APARTMENT. AND THE COST OF UTILITIES. AND SO WE BUILD I BELIEVE THE FAIR, THE AVERAGE MARKET VALUE OF AN APARTMENT IN PHOENIX, AND THE COST OF UTILITIES. WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT LIVING IN SOME, YOU KNOW, SUBSTANDARD HORRIBLE ENVIRONMENT. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT JUST BASIC HOUSING. ADEQUATE HOUSING. SAME WITH FOOD. WE ARE LOOKING AT REALLY WHAT DOES IT JUST COST TO BUY GROCERIES AND EAT? I DON'T KNOW IF YOU HAVE SOME SPECIFIC NUMBERS.

Diana Pearce: LIKE CHILD CARE, FOR THOSE TWO KIDS, AN INFANT I MEAN A PRESCHOOLER AND A SCHOOL-AGE IS $1319. PART TIME FOR THE SCHOOL AGE CHILD, FULL TIME FOR THE PRESCHOOLER.

Ted Simons: AS FAR AS MEASURING THIS, THOUGH, AND THE METRICS INVOLVED, HOW DO YOU FIGURE THIS OUT?

Diana Pearce: WELL, WE USE GOVERNMENT SOURCE. WE TRY TO USE WHAT, NOT WHAT YOU AND I MIGHT -- WE WOULD BE TOO GENEROUS. SO THIS IS THE MINIMUM THAT LIKE THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HAS A FOOD BUDGET, HOW MUCH IT COST TO MEET YOUR NUTRITIONAL NEEDS, THE MINIMUM IT WOULD COST. THE HOUSING AND CHILD CARE, HOW MUCH PEOPLE WOULD GET FOR HOUSING AND CHILD CARE IF THEY ARE GETTING ASSISTANCE. SO THIS IS FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE WHO ARE GETTING LIKE A CHILD CARE SUBSIDY. THIS IS HOW MUCH THE STATE WILL ALLOCATE FOR THAT. THIS ISN'T REALLY GENEROUS. THIS IS THE MINIMUM. THAT'S HOW WE COME UP WITH THAT.

Ted Simons: YET IT'S VERY DIFFERENT THAN FEDERAL POVERTY GUIDELINES. CORRECT?

Laura Penny: HUGELY DIFFERENT. HUGELY DIFFERENT. THE FEDERAL POVERTY LIMIT FOR A FAMILY OF THREE IS A LITTLE OVER $19,000. THAT DOESN'T MEAN IF YOU MAKE $20,000 OR $21,000 YOU ARE NOT POOR ANYMORE. YOU ARE STILL DESPERATELY POOR. THE MORE MONEY YOU MAKE, YOU BECOME INELIGIBLE FOR SOME OF THOSE SUPPORTS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU KEEP YOUR HEAD ABOVE WATER WHEN YOU ARE ONLY BRINGING HOME $19,000 A YEAR.

Ted Simons: AND THE FEDS, FROM READING THE REPORT, IT SOUNDS LIKE THEY DON'T NECESSARILY LOOK AS CLOSELY AS THIS REPORT DID AT FAMILIES OR WHERE THOSE FAMILIES MIGHT LIVE.

Laura Penny: EXACTLY.

Diana Pearce: THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL IS THE SAME NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE EXCEPT ALASKA AND HAWAII. BUT IT'S THE SAME FOR THE FAMILY OF THREE. IT'S THE SAME AMOUNT, NO MATTER IF YOU LIVED IN MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, MANHATTAN, KANSAS.

Ted Simons: LET'S TALK ABOUT IF THERE WAS A MANHATTAN, ARIZONA. MARICOPA COUNTY, HIGHEST NUMBERS THERE?

Laura Penny: THE MOST EXPENSIVE COUNTY IN THE STATE.

Ted Simons: OK. DOES IT DIFFER, AND IT'S JUDGING FROM THE REPORT, IT LOOKS LIKE THERE ARE A LOT OF VARIABLES IN THERE. IT VARIETIES GREATLY WITH THE VARIABLES ADD UP AS WELL. WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT LIVING IN COCHISE COUNTY AS OPPOSED TO PINNELL COUNTY AS OPPOSED TO ANY OTHER COUNTY?

Laura Penny: WELL, YOU ARE A MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREA HERE IN PHOENIX. AND WITH THAT COMES INCREASED PRICES. THAT'S INTUITIVE. YOU SEE THAT ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THE COST OF LIVING MAY BE LESS IN COCHISE COUNTY OR SOME OF THE MORE RURAL COUNTIES. BUT WHAT WE DON'T KNOW IS WHAT PERCENT OF PEOPLE ARE STILL HAVING TROUBLE MEETING THAT STANDARD. SO THERE ARE MORE JOBS HERE, BETTER PAYING JOBS HERE THAN THERE ARE IN BENSON.

Ted Simons: YES.

Laura Penny: YOU KNOW, SO THE RATE OF LOW-INCOME PEOPLE MAY BE THE SAME SIMPLY BECAUSE THERE JUST NORTH GOOD JOBS THERE. PINAL COUNTY IS INTERESTING BECAUSE 10 YEARS AGO, IT WAS, IT HADN'T EXPERIENCED THE DEVELOPMENT BOOM THAT WE SAW. AND SO PINAL IS NOW I BELIEVE THE SECOND MOST EXPENSIVE COUNTY IN THE STATE. AND THAT'S A REAL SHIFT FROM 10 YEARS AGO.

Ted Simons: TALK ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO. THIS IS NOW THE LAST TIME THIS STUDY WAS DONE WAS 10 YEARS AGO. TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES. WHAT HAS CHANGED? OBVIOUSLY THE NUMBERS HAVE GONE UP. BUT HOW MUCH AND WHAT ELSE HAS CHANGED?

Diana Pearce: WELL, WHAT'S HAPPENED IS THAT NUMBERS HAVE GONE UP. AVERAGE OF A LITTLE OVER 3% PER YEAR. OVER THE DECADE, ACROSS THE STATE AS AN AVERAGE ACROSS THE STATE. IT'S GONE UP MORE IN SOME PLACES LIKE SOME COUNTIES THAT HAVE EXPERIENCED RAPID DEVELOPMENT. BUT ONE OF THE PROBLEMS IS THAT WAGES HAVE ONLY GONE UP ON AVERAGE ABOUT 19%. SO EACH YEAR, YOU ARE GETTING A WIDER AND WIDER GAP BETWEEN PEOPLE'S WAGES WHICH AREN'T GOING UP AS FAST AS THEIR COSTERS GOING UP. WHAT'S THAT MEAN TO INCOME AND INCOME INEQUALITY? S THAT'S ONLY PART OF THE PICTURE. THE OTHER PART OF THE PICTURE IS PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING IS CRUNCH WHERE THEY CAN'T MEET THEIR NEEDS.

Ted Simons: SO WHAT ABOUT THE IMPACT OF CHILD CARE, HEALTH, FOOD ASSISTANCE, MEDICAID, HOW DOES THAT MET GATE WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE? HOW MUCH IT TAKES TO MAKE ENDS MEET IN ARIZONA?

Laura Penny: IT HAS A HUGE IMPACT. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR SOMEBODY TO BE WORKING AND TO RECEIVING, TO BE RECEIVING EVERY PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR WHICH THEY ARE ELIGIBLE, AND THEY COME PRETTY CLOSE THEN TO BEING SELF-SUFFICIENT. YOU KNOW, BUT AS WAGES INCREASE AND WE HAVE HEARD STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO HAVE TURNED DOWN PROMOTIONS OR CUT BACK HOURS BECAUSE THEY WILL BE MAKING TOO MUCH MONEY FOR A PARTICULAR SUPPORT THAT THEY FEEL LIKE THEIR FAMILY CAN'T GET BY WITHOUT KIDS CARE OR WITHOUT SUBSIDIZED CHILD CARE.

Diana Pearce: MOST OF THE ELIGIBILITY LEVELS ARE CLOSE TO THE POVERTY LINE. LIKE FOOD STAMPS, WHICH IS NOW CALLED SNAP IS AT 130% OF THE POVERTY LINE. BUT THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY STANDARD IS WELL OVER 200% OF THE POVERTY LINE. A LOT OF PEOPLE FIND THEMSELVES IN A SITUATION WHERE THEY ARE EARNING A MODEST WAGE BUT IT'S NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS THEY NEED FOR CHILD CARE, HEALTH CARE, ETCETERA. SO THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY STANDARDS HERE, ELIGIBILITY LEVELS AND THEY ARE CAUGHT THIN POLICY GAPE WHERE THEY SUPPORT THE POOREST PEOPLE WITH THINGS LIKE FOOD STAMPS BUT IF YOU EARN A LITTLE BIT MORE BUT STILL WELL BELOW YOURSELF-SUFFICIENCY STANDARD YOU ARE CAUGHT IN THIS GAP.

Ted Simons: WITH THAT IN MIND, WHAT DO YOU WANT POLICYMAKERS, WHAT DO YOU WANT ALL OF US TO TAKE FROM THIS REPORT?

Laura Penny: YOU KNOW, FIRST OF ALL, AN AWARENESS. LIKE WE SAID, EVERYBODY WHO HAS SEEN THIS NUMBER HAS BEEN LIKE SO SHOCKED BY IT. BUT SECONDLY, WE HOPE THAT POLICYMAKERS WILL TAKE A LOOK AT THIS AND REALIZE WHEN WE CLOSE THE DOOR ON KIDS CARE, WHICH WE DID THIS YEAR. WE HAVE RECENTLY OPENED IT A LITTLE BIT. WHEN WE CLOSE THE DOOR ON STATE SUBSIDIZED CHILD CARE WHICH HAS A PHENOMENAL WAITING LIST RIGHT NOW, THIS HAS SERIOUS IMPACT ON FAMILIES WHO ARE HARD WORKING, WHO ARE TRYING TO KEEP THEIR HEADS ABOVE WATER, AND WE ARE JUST PULLING THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THEM.

Diana Pearce: CHILD CARE IS A REALLY SMART INVESTMENT. IT'S GOOD FOR KIDS. THEY ARE BETTER PREPARED FOR SCHOOL. IT'S GOOD FOR PARENTS BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT KIDS ARE BEING TAKEN CARE OF SO THEY ARE BETTER EMPLOYEES. IT'S GOOD FOR EMPLOYERS BECAUSE THEN THEY ARE EMPLOYEES HAVE DEPENDABLE CHILD CARE. AND IT'S GOOD FOR THE SOCIETY THAT THEY ARE GOING TO GROW UP TO BE BETTER STUDENTS AND BETTER WORKERS. AND TO CUT BACK ON THAT CHILD CARE JUST CUTS ALL OF THOSE THINGS.

Ted Simons: ALL RIGHT. WE HAVE TO STOP IT RIGHT THERE. INTERESTING REPORT. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

Guests: THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

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