Other Shoe Drops on Shoestring Budget - Capital Area Food Bank
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Other Shoe Drops on Shoestring Budget

By Amy Hedges March 14, 2013

Our nation’s capital is already busy at 7:30am. I hop from my stoop, eager to greet the day in a part of town newbies like me are calling NoMa. A posse of preschoolers hoots at me from a jungle gym. A parking attendant whistles as he puts out a cigarette. My barista seems hurried, unapologetically calling the wrong name as she thrusts a cup of coffee at me that costs more than a third of the federal hourly minimum wage. How many of the people in this coffee shop are aware of this?
Our minimum wage in D.C. is automatically set at a dollar more per hour than the federal minimum wage. Right now we’re ringing in at a whopping $8.25 an hour. The most recent statistics available on wages from US Department of Labor are from May 2012. At that time the mean income of, for instance, coffee shop counter attendants in D.C. was $9.12 an hour. For our preschool teachers it was $13.26. For that parking lot attendant it was $10.62.
According to The Council for Community and Economic Research, in 2012 Washington, D.C. had the eighth highest cost of living in the entire country. The payroll tax holiday that ended January 1st saved the average full-time minimum wage worker more than $300 over the course of a year.
Theodate Desrivieres of Gospel Assembly Church manages a food pantry in Laurel, MD. When asked about what that $300 a year could mean to his clients, he says, “Because of the economic situation right now, like taxes increasing, our clients are bringing less money home. Any help we can offer to them is a blessing. When we give them something, they don’t have to go and buy it themselves. They feel more at ease and they can meet their budgets.”
Now, more than ever, we are a metropolitan area in crisis. The Capital Area Food Bank’s mission has never been more relevant than it is today. Informal surveys of our partner agencies show almost unanimously that it is the working poor looking for help.
The expiration of the payroll tax holiday will undoubtedly be a final straw for many barely getting by. In a part of the country where it’s common to spend more than 30 percent of household income on housing alone, low income families now must grapple with the implications of these lost savings on shoestring budgets.
Our community was in a world of trouble before the payroll tax holiday ended. The positive news is that by focusing on collaboration with our partners we are in a position to do a world of good.