Minimum wage will go up Saturday as Colorado’s working poor struggle to get by

The minimum wage in Colorado will increase from $7.25 an hour to $7.36 on Saturday. In Colorado, the minimum wage is tied to inflation and adjusts every January 1.

Someone working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks would see their annual income increase from $15,080 to $15,309.

This news comes on the heels of a report released this week by the Denver-based Bell Policy Center study which says that the working poor in Colorado keep falling further behind.

The report, “Opportunity Lost, When Hard Work Just Isn’t Enough for Colorado Families,” says the number of working poor in Colorado has increased dramatically in the last six years.

The report’s authors recommend a greater emphasis in Colorado on basic adult education and job training and say something needs to be done to make low-wage jobs more secure.

According to the report, 8.3 percent of working families in Colorado are below the poverty line, which is $22,050 for a family of four. The reports says that about one fourth of Colorado families do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs, which requires income of roughly double the poverty level.

From the report:

The number of working poor families in our state has grown by 51 percent, from 32,124 families living in poverty, representing 5.8 percent of working families, to 48,410 (8.3 percent).

More than 25 percent of working families do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. That’s 151,875 families. Six years ago, 20 percent were in this boat.

More low-wage workers have little security for the future, with the number of workers without any type of employer-provided pension growing by almost 275,000, to almost 1.7 million, since 2004.

With an eye on the upcoming legislative session, the Bell Policy Center recommends policies and public investments in two key areas: adult basic education and making low-wage jobs more secure.

Almost half of poor working families have a parent without a high school diploma or a GED. Adults without a high school education are not prepared for the 21st century workforce. Expanding opportunities for adults to increase their education and develop greater skills can lead to a pathway out of poverty.

To bolster the low-wage workforce, polices such as the Earned Income Tax Credit can help make low-wage jobs pay better, and policies can also encourage partnerships with business to make it easier for workers to save for retirement.

“These are hard-working families, and they are not keeping up. That has grievous implications for the rest of us and for the economic health of our state,” said Rich Jones, one of the main authors of the 2010 report. “When these families struggle to feed their children, when their children do not graduate from high school, when they cannot get job training to seek better opportunities, the rest of the state suffers as a result. “With an eye on the upcoming legislative session, the Bell Policy Center’s report recommends policies and public investments in two key areas: adult basic education and making low-wage jobs more secure.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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