Chamber Chat - Self-Sufficiency Standard

Dec 24

By Meg Moss

As the labor market continues to change, more and more families struggle to stretch their wages to meet the costs of basic necessities. Though these families are often not deemed “poor” by the official poverty measure, they lack enough income to meet the rising costs of food, housing, transportation, health care, and other essentials.

The United Way of North Carolina developed a Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina, which defines the amount of income necessary to meet the basic needs of North Carolina families, differentiated by family type and where they live. The Standard calculates the costs of six basic needs plus taxes and tax credits. It assumes the full cost of each need, without help from public subsidies (public housing, Medicaid, or child care assistance) or private/informal assistance (unpaid babysitting by a relative or friend, food from food banks, or shared housing). More than 700 family compositions for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties are calculated. The study provides a county by county story of what is needed by any family, of any size, to be self-sufficient.

At the beginning of December, The United Way of Lee County Executive Director, Kendra Martin, presented the Self-Sufficiency Standard at a Public Policy Lunch. She was able to share some interesting local statistics. An adult with one pre-school age child could be self-sufficient if they earn $16.42/hour, while an adult with preschooler and an infant would need to earn $22.52/hour in order to be self-sufficient.

Let’s remember that in this case, self-sufficiency is defined as not leaning on any public or private assistance. But the truth is, these wages are not the reality for many local families. Luckily, we live in a community that supports a vast network of charitable organizations. 

The Christians United Outreach Center (CUOC) is just one example. While their primary focus is serving as a food pantry, their ministry has grown to also serve people who are in financial crisis. Through donations, they are able to assist people with electric or water bills on a case-by-case basis. They fill the void between what people earn, and what they need. In addition to basic necessities, they provide school supplies at the beginning, and throughout the school year to struggling families; and in April, they are able to provide prom dresses to high school juniors and seniors.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Carolina provides After School Care for area youth for as little as $52/year. And some children are eligible for scholarships to cover that amount. And it’s not just day care. From homework assistance to games, athletics, workshops for our young men and women, to drug prevention programs, the Boys and Girls Clubs are helping to raise the next generation.

Have you heard the bells ringing? Hundreds of volunteers have taken to the doorways of Piggly Wiggly, Hobby Lobby and Lowe’s Foods to raise money for the Salvation Army over the past month. All of the “Red Kettle” funds stay right here in Lee County to help low income families with food, funds for shelter, and support for programs such as the “Jobs for Life” program.

You still have time left to make that end of year gift to a local charitable organization. Please consider giving. Some other local options to consider are the Ingram Family YMCA, Coalition for Families, Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity, HAVEN in Lee County, Lee County Education Foundation, Men Creating Men, United Way of Lee County, The Partnership for Children and Willing Hands. If you need contact information for any of these organizations, please feel free to call our office at 919-775-7341.

I hope each of you have a wonderful Christmas with your friends and families tomorrow! 

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