A single parent with one small child needs to make more than $50,000 a year to survive in the Denver metro area, according to a new statewide self-sufficiency index released this week.
The index calculates how much families must earn to cover basic expenses like child care, transportation, and housing without any outside help. For a family of four, with two parents, a child in day care and one in school, the minimum needed for self sufficiency ranges from around $40,000 a year in Bent and Baca counties to more than $70,000 in Pitkin and Routt.
One stark figure: a single parent with two children cannot survive on minimum wage alone in any county in the state.
In the 14 years since the release of Colorado's first self sufficiency index, researchers calculate that minimum household costs have risen three times faster than wages.
"There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight," says University of Washington professor Diana Pearce who developed the self sufficiency scale and wrote the report "At some point, something’s just got to give. Families just can't afford [it]."
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a progressive advocacy group, commissioned the report. Director Claire Levy says the data emphasizes that even when families improve their situations enough to leave public assistance, they are likely to still need help.
"When you get kicked off of SNAP or you get kicked out of the child care (assistance) program, you are nowhere near being able to afford it," Levy says. "You still have that gap."
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