According to a recent policy brief released by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), working for 40 hours per week at minimal wages is not helping poor families in Florida to improve their living conditions.
The study highlights the impact of policies on the lives of working families which inevitability influence their health. The study, which was done in collaboration with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, has been released just in time to point out the ever-increasing inflation.
Currently, Florida’s minimum hourly wage is $8.05 and about 2,000 parents work full time at this wage, but they cannot struggle their way out of poverty. With a consistent pressure to provide for the health and education of their children, these parents are perpetually fatigued.
It was found that the current wage is not enough to improve the living standards of the family. In additional to this, these families lived below the poverty level and had no access to federal healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
This further deteriorates their living conditions and economic stature as they have to pay for healthcare requirements, if their employers have no health care insurance available for them. This minimum wage is not even close to fulfilling the necessities of the families which forces both the parents to work for increased hours, against their will.
If the second parent decides to contribute towards sharing the financial burden of the family, it is often seen that due to lack of incentives like transportation to and from work and daycare service facilities for children, the cost of living continues to increase.
The study has recorded that if the second parent decides to take up work for more hours than a part-time job to balance out the added expenses, the hourly earning is cut down to $7.92.
While the parents struggle by increasing their working hours, the federal support like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) decrease to make matters worse. Furthermore, with seemingly improved income the taxation criteria also change, leaving the parents troubled at the hands of more taxes which include payroll taxes, premiums for Florida KidCare and income taxes.
Speaking in specific terms, if the second parent increases the work hours from eight to 40 hours per week, the cost of living for the family increases at an hourly rate.
According to estimates, it comes down to $3.31 increase in childcare costs, $0.14 increase in Florida KidCare premiums, $0.08 increase in federal income tax, $0.67 increase in transportation costs and $0.62 increase in payroll taxes. On the contrary, the SNAP benefits are reduced by $1.41, EITC reduced by $0.95 and healthcare subsidies reduced by $0.74.
Adding more to their misery, these families earn too much to qualify as a recipient of Medicaid coverage and too less to become a part of health insurance subsidies. This further increase their coverage gap and increases the economic stress on over 100,000 working parents in Florida.
The NCCP researcher Seth Hartig emphasized the need to visit family dynamics before passing a legislation and said, “Exploring how proposed changes affect families’ real choices and opportunities is crucial to any policy debate.”
The people of Florida are under a constant monetary stress and they stand second after the people of Texas who are falling into the deep pit of coverage gap.
How Does Low Income Effect Health?
It has long been believed that a person’s health reflects their wealth. Being logically sound, we do not seem to deviate from this notion. But, the economics experts from Stanford University, MIT, Cambridge and Harvard University set out for a study to find an association between income and life expectancy in the United States from 2001 to 2014.
The study was published in the Journal of American Medical Association earlier this year which studied longevity with respect to income groups and geographical variation. The study included 1,408,287,218 person-year observations and the participants aged between 40 to 76. In the participant men, 596.3 deaths per 100,000 people were recorded while in women the mortality rate was 375.1 per 100,000 people.
The long established belief remained valid and an association of high longevity was observed with high income. The affluent men and poor men had a life expectancy gap of 14.6 years and for women the gap was 10.1 years.
This life expectancy rate varied from one geographical area to the other and the underlying causes significantly correlated with health behaviors like smoking and drinking. However, to our surprise, the researchers could not find a significant link of low life-expectancy with medical care facilities, psychical environment factors or labor market conditions.
Although this study found no relation to the access of medical care, looking at the federal policy in Florida a strong link between health conditions of a poverty stricken family and their access to healthcare facilities cannot be negated.
The state needs to realize that not only their policies deprive poor families of their right to healthcare facilities as our equal American citizens, but also the minimal wages put a lifelong financial stressor on them.
It is about time that these wages be revised to at least $15 per hour per as proposed by Florida state legislators in 2015. Otherwise, exhausted by the pressure, the people living below poverty level would become prone to unhealthy practices like substance abuse and health problems like depression. These factors will not only influence their health negatively and reduce life expectancy but also affect the very fabric of the society, giving rise to crime rates and violence.