By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget

To introduce this article, I’ve had a recurring – and very popular – series on Monroe on a Budget called the “How Broke is Broke?” chart. It started as a way for people to look up income eligibility brackets for various public assistance programs; but also became an eye-opening reference point as to the cost of living for southeast Michigan families.

I update the chart from time to time, based on when new data are released or discussions ramp up about minimum wage / living wage topics.

The news angle this week: The Associated Press is reporting on an effort for a petition drive to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

Here is the article as posted by The Monroe News:

Backers of a minimum wage hike in Michigan say they’ll ask voters to approve increasing the rate to $9.50 an hour and eventually bringing tipped employees to the same rate.

Frank Houston, treasurer of the Raise Michigan ballot committee, says proposed language for a ballot initiative will be given to the Secretary of State’s office on Monday (Feb. 10).

Michigan’s minimum wage is currently $7.40 an hour, slightly higher than the $7.25 federal minimum.

Under the proposal, the state’s minimum wage would increase by 50 cents in January 2015, and again six months later. The final $1.10 increase would occur in January 2016.

The minimum wage for tipped employees is currently $2.65. That would increase 85 cents each year, starting in January 2015, until it reaches the minimum wage for other workers.

How does $9.50 an hour fit in with income cutoffs for public and charity assistance? Take a look at the Monroe on a Budget “How Broke is Broke?” chart. This version reflects the newly issued 2014 federal poverty guidelines.

povertyguidelines

My chart compares various wage and salary levels to the income cutoff for specific public and charity assistance resources; and also to what some experts have recommended really is a “living wage” in Michigan. I use data for a family of two adults and two children in Monroe County, Mich., or in State of Michigan, as applicable to that reference or resource.

While the federal numbers were adjusted in late January, some programs update their eligibility brackets at other times of year. I’ll update those when I see that the latest figures have been posted by their agencies.

Extreme poverty, defined as 50 percent of poverty bracket:

  • $11,925 – Annual income for a family of four that was considered “extreme poverty” in Michigan with the 2014 poverty brackets.

Below poverty, family of four:

  • $14,684 – Eligibility bracket for a family of four to receive energy-related emergency assistance from the Michigan Department of Human Services.
  • $15,080 – Annual income for one full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
  • $15,392 – Annual income for one full-time worker earning the Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour.
  • $18,720 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $9 an hour.
  • $19,760 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $9.50 an hour, which is the goal of the Raise Michigan petition effort.
  • $20,800- Annual income for one-full-time worker who earns $10 an hour, a pay scale that Michigan Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, has proposed as a state minimum wage by January 2015.
  • $21,008 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $10.10 an hour, which President Obama implemented via executive order on Feb. 12, 2014, as minimum wage for federal contract workers.

100 percent of poverty, family of four:

  • $23,850 – 2014 federal poverty guideline for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states, as published in the Federal Register. Percentages of this figure are used to calculate income eligibility for multiple government programs.
  • $23,850 – Poverty level is the income guideline cutoff for Monroe County, Mich., residents who are senior citizens or physically disabled to receive a wheelchair-accessible ramp to their home through Project Ramp coordinated by the United Way of Monroe County.
  • $29,120 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $14 an hour. The background to this salary range is this: there was quite an uproar in 2008 when $14 an hour wage brackets became part of the “two tier workforce” in southeast Michigan.
  • $29,786 – Annual income that a Michigan household needed to earn in 2010 to afford the fair market value of $745 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the Michigan League for Human Services. “The cost of renting an apartment has grown by over 25 percent over the past decade, even though jobs and income have fallen,” the League says in its “Ties that Bind” report.
  • $29,965 – Income cut-off for participation of a family of four in the Women Infants Children food and nutrition program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Michigan Department of Community Health.
  • $30,173 – Annual wages that the National Low Income Housing Coalition says it takes to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Michigan during 2013, based on fair market rental of $768 for such a unit.
  • $30,615 – Income cut-off point for a family of four to receive free school lunches and breakfast during the 2013-14 school year in the 48 contiguous states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
  • $30,624 – Annual household income cutoff for a family of four on food stamps, per the USDA web site for fiscal year 2013-14, unless other qualifications are met.
  • $30,784 – Annual household income when two full-time workers earn the current Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour.
  • $31,200 – Annual income when one full-time worker makes $15 an hour, which is the “living wage” discussion point in the national fast food strikes of 2013.
  • $32,500 – Expected income cutoff for a family of four Michigan residents to be eligible for Medicaid starting in April 2014, according to HealthCare.gov.
  • $34,000-$50,950 – Income eligibility range for a family of four in most of Monroe County, Mich., for the homeowner program run by Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, Mich. The Luna Pier income eligibility range starts at $26,000 for a family of four.
  • $34,575 – The Michigan income bracket that applies to a family of four for the Lifeline telephone program that allows one discounted (sometimes free) wireless or landline phone per low income household. You might know this program by its nickname of “Obama phones.”
  • $35,325 – Income cut-off in fall 2013 for the Heat and Warmth Fund, a program that is available to DTE Energy customers to provide assistance should they reach shut-off status.
  • $35,325 – Income cut-off in fall 2013 for the Residential Income Assistance credit available to DTE Energy customers. This includes a $6 a month credit on the electric account and / or a $10.50 a month credit on the natural gas account.

150 percent of poverty, family of four:

  • $35,775 – 150 percent of the 2014 poverty guidelines for a family of four in Michigan.
  • $35,775 – Cutoff for family of four to receive grocery assistance once every three months from the Salvation Army of Monroe County, Mich. Salvation Army says it follows a 150 percent of poverty bracket.
  • $35,775 – Income cutoff for a family of four on the 2012-13 winter for Winter Protection Plan for winter heating bills via Michigan Gas Utilities. This program uses 150 percent of poverty level.
  • $37,440 – Income when two wage-earners are working full time at $9 an hour each.
  • $39,520 – Income for two wage earners working full time at $9.50 an hour, each. This is the salary goal of the Raise Michigan petition.
  • $41,032 – The Early Start Scholarship program in Michigan, administered by the Women’s Caring Program to help with child care expenses for children ages 2 and younger, has an income eligibility bracket of $28,416 to $41,032 for a family of four.
  • $42,016 – Annual income for two full-time workers who earn $10.10 an hour, which President Obama implemented via executive order on Feb. 12, 2014, as minimum wage for federal contract workers.
  • $43,568 – Income cut-off point for students in a family of four in the contiguous 48 states to receive reduced-price school lunches during the 2013-14 school year. The statistic that concerns me about this point is about half of the Monroe Public Schools (Monroe, Mich.) students are now on the school lunch programs. That percentage was a more comfortable “bell curve” point of 27 percent in 2006-07; but it spiked during the recession and remains high.
  • $43,568 – Income cut-off point for the Comcast Internet Essentials program, a discounted rate for home Internet for families whose children are on free or reduced-price school lunches.
  • $47,100 – Income cut-off for Monroe County, Mich., family of four to receive groceries in fall 2012 from the Emergency Food Assistance Program administered by the Monroe County Opportunity Program.

200 percent poverty, family of four:

  • $47,700 – 200 percent poverty guideline for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states.
  • $48,378 – Income cut-off on the Earned Income Tax Credit for the 2013 tax filing season for a married couple filing jointly with two qualifying children, according to the Internal Revue Service.
  • $53,744 – Median household income for Monroe County, Mich., in 2011, according to the 2012 Community Needs Assessment study compiled by Monroe County Opportunity Program.
  • $58,000 – or less for gross adjusted income for taxpayers to use FreeFile service for tax season 2013, according to the Internal Revenue Service. According to the IRS, 70% of all taxpayers have an AGI that meets FreeFile brackets.
  • $58,240 – Annual household income when two full-time workers are earning $14 an hour.
  • $58,875 – Income cutoff for a family of four on the Monroe County Great Start Readiness Program for preschoolers.

250 percent of poverty, family of four:

  • $59,625 – 250 percent of poverty is the “lower middle class” point discussed in a Hamilton Project policy paper.
  • $60,507 – Living wage or “basic needs budget” estimate calculated by the Monroe County Community Needs Assessment, a study done in 2012 by the Monroe County Opportunity Program.
  • $62,000 – Annual income for two adults and two children that a study in 2011 by the Wider Opportunities for Women in partnership with the Michigan League for Human Services said met “basic economic security” in Michigan.
  • $62,400 – Annual income for two full time wage earners at $15 an hour, which is the “living wage” discussion point in the national fast food strikes of 2013.

300 percent poverty bracket, family of four:

  • $71,550 – Annual income cutoff for family of four, assuming other guidelines also are met, for the Salvation Army of Monroe County to provide utility assistance once a year. Yes, it’s listed as 300 percent of poverty guideline.
  • $94,200 – The income cap for a family of four on tax subsidies for health care reform, according to an explanation from CNN.

400 percent poverty, family of four

  • $95,400 – 400 percent of poverty for a family of four in 2013 in the 48 contiguous states.

What about families of other sizes?

The reason I build this chart on a family of four is that it’s the easiest one to find data for.

But some of the studies and reports I link to do explain the formula used or provide charts beyond that bracket. Look at the poverty brackets I list at the start of the article, see the math as explained in this chart or follow the links where I have them embedded, and in many cases you’ll be able to figure out the likely income cutoffs for your size family and demographic.

 

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