Many Coloradoans trapped in low income jobs

“We have 22% of jobs in Colorado are poverty level jobs, low wage jobs, paying $24,000 a year or less.”

The Corporation for Corporate Enterprise Development  has just released its 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, looking at different states and what they’re doing to improve the financial security of their residents. Chaer Robert,  Manager of the Family Economic Security Program at the ColoradoCenter on Law and Policy says that Colorado is doing better than some states but worse than others. “We have 22% of jobs in Colorado are poverty level jobs, low wage jobs, paying $24,000 a year or less.”

The report shows that 39 percent of Colorado’s households are locked into a “new normal” of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency. “If there’s a loss of income or major expense, people are not prepared to handle that financially and when you’re not able to handle something financially it cascades into trouble on a lot of fronts whether that is being able to stay housed or being able to save for retirement or save for your kids education or just make ends meet.”  Robert says the situation is worse for African-American and Latino households in Colorado.  “Actually worse than the income gap is the gap in assets that someone has accumulated.” The Corporation for Corporate Enterprise Development says that asset gap is worse for African American families by a factor of 12 and 15 times. “African American families might have $8000 in assets where white families tend to have $110,000 in assets.”

Robert says Colorado has some policies in place to help families living close to the financial edge “covering people who are below 138% of federal poverty level with Medicaid, that is huge. Having the state earned income tax credit again this year, that is huge, it’s like a 10% bump in many families pay. Our minimum wage, while it’s not as high as many states, it’s at least indexed to inflation and it’s been going up and it’s a little higher than national average.” The report identifies Colorado as having a good college savings plan that makes it easy to save and that offers a program that helps low income match their savings.

Robert says there is definitely room for improvement in Colorado “we’re particularly note worthy in terms of putting very little towards K-12 education.” Robert says we’re more than $2,000 under the national average in for pupil spending in education. Other areas that are contributing to income inequality in Colorado are housing affordability and college graduation by race “we’re 48th among states in terms of how much less likely it is if you’re a student of color to actually get a 4 year degree. That should be embarrassing as well as a travesty in terms of holding people back.”

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