Letter to the Editor: Minimum wage too low; urge state Sen. Lisa Baker to advance bill allowing increase for Pennsylvanians

I am writing to express my concern regarding Pennsylvania’s state minimum wage. While federal programs such as Social Security routinely undergo cost of living adjustments, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has not made any changes to the state minimum wage since 2009 when it raised the hourly rate to $7.25 an hour.

As a citizen of this great nation, living in Pennsylvania, I would like to a see legislative bills passed that effectively raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. I see families and even friends struggle every day to make ends meet while living paycheck to paycheck. It is becoming a fact that a family can no longer survive on one income.

The federal poverty line for a family of one is $11,770 per year. A person who makes $7.25 per hour grosses $15,080 a year. This is only $3,310 over the poverty line, or roughly $275 a month. These numbers are all before any deductions that take place for items such as health care or any small amount people try to set aside for their future or retirement. Once these deductions take place, we are all back at the same level the federal government considers poverty.

The only difference between those people at the poverty line and those who make minimum wage is that the ones making minimum wage can pay for their own health care without asking the state to provide or help cover their premiums.

I would also like to point out that per Pennsylvania’s 2015 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program income limits, anyone who makes $8.65 per hour qualifies for the state’s (food stamp) SNAP benefits. The threshold for a family of one for these benefits is $1,557 per month gross.

Raising the wage to $10.10 per hour would allow many families in Pennsylvania to reduce their reliance on state assistance and start keeping pace with surrounding states.

According to the 2015 state minimum wages referenced on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website, www.ncsl.org, every state surrounding Pennsylvania offers a higher minimum wage, by at least 75 cents an hour, with some as high as $9.15 an hour – with other increases on the way.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would allow more opportunity for families to enroll their children in safer programs that keep kids off the streets and perhaps result in healthier families, whose members are finally able to see a doctor and get the health care that they so desperately need. Medicare is not the answer. The people deserve better. Pennsylvanians deserve better.

If we track yearly inflation at 4 percent, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage should have been $9.17 per hour. But again, this would continue to leave us in a position of much needed growth. Raising the minimum wage in this state to $10.10 per hour would not only provide our working citizens with an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work, but also provide a fair wage at which someone can feel good about being able to provide for their family needs. Pennsylvania cities also suffer from losses of workers who travel across state borders in search of a higher wage for similar jobs.

Keeping the minimum wage this low will continue to hurt the state economy and its people. I urge readers to contact state Sen. Lisa Baker, chairwoman of the Senate’s Labor and Industry Committee, and urge her to push a minimum-wage bill out of committee.

Kennie Harr

Social chair

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wyoming Valley