An annual checkup is encouraged for your physical health.
The N.C. Budget and Tax Center just issued a fiscal checkup of family economic health across the state, including Jackson.
The snapshot captures the moment we’re in, described by the Center as a time of “supply chain disruptions, pent-up demand, war in Ukraine, and myriad other factors (that) have made it harder and harder for many working families to make ends meet. While the current moment is extraordinary, millions of North Carolina families found it hard or impossible to cover the cost of basic needs before the pandemic arrived.”
The study uses a metric called the Living Income Standard that factors in the cost of living for eight necessities ranging from housing, food, health care, child care, transportation, etc. The report’s authors say, “The LIS is not living high on the hog – it’s a basic floor for what families need to get by.”
That study calculates that a Jackson County family of two adults and two children needs to earn about $61,000 annually to meet the LIS, paying an average of $1,120 for child care, $730 for housing, $630 for health care, $830 for food, $240 in debt payments and $640 for transportation.
The federal poverty level for that family is $27,750. The federal minimum wage gets that family to about $30,000. To reach the LIS, the family needs a job of $29.25 per hour, $14.75 per hour for both adults.
Obviously, the data paints a broad brush and individual circumstances vary by family and by county – or even within counties; we haven’t seen data but suspect the cost of living in, say, Whittier might be a good bit different than the cost of living in Cashiers.
And as far as North Carolina goes, Jackson County has a lot of advantages other counties don’t: A booming university, top-notch community college, a hospital and large, stable employers such as Harrah’s.
That said, families here face the same perils families across the state do. Things like a spike in the price of gas can make the difference between staying, barely, in the black financially or starting to rack up credit card debt. Being an inviting retirement destination can push up the mortgage or rent, doing the same. And a health event can mean outright economic ruin.
The fiscal checkup is in. Some very basic, chronic issues have been identified.
So, what can be done to move the needle on those metrics, to help families get a little further away from the edge? Well, for starters there’s a little thing called an election coming up. It would behoove us to examine the positions of candidates for federal and state office to see what their ideas are on lowering medical costs or dealing with housing and childcare costs – or to examine if these very obvious topics are on their radar at all.
Check out those candidate position papers. And vote accordingly.
Consider it your annual electoral checkup.