'Living wage' increases to $13

Jan 05, 2017
Photo by: Thinkstock

ASHEVILLE — Just Economics (JE), a local nonprofit organization most known for promoting living wages, announces an increase in the local Living Wage rate for 2017.

The new rate will be $13/hr for those employees not offered employer provided health insurance and $11.50/hr for those that are offered employer provided health insurance. The last rate change was in 2015.

The city of Asheville, the towns of Canton, Montreat and Weaverville, and Buncombe County all accepted the previous wage rate as a wage floor for policy about public employees.

Public agencies using Just Economics wage rate are expected to make adjustments at the beginning of their fiscal year.

Just Economics defines the concept of a living wage as the amount a worker needs to make in order to meet his or her basic needs without public or private assistance.

“We believe a full time worker should, at the very least, be able to put a roof over their head and food on their table without financial assistance,” said Vicki Meath, executive director, Just Economics.

The living wage rate sets a standard for a different wage floor. To determine the living wage rate, JE uses the Universal Living Wage formula (learn more, see “About Living Wages” at justeconomicswnc.org).

Employers use JE’s rate as the benchmark to set their own minimum wage. JE certified employers are committed to providing a wage that their employees can live on without relying on taxpayer, supported programs, or outside help.

Living Wage Certification is valid for two years before an employer is required to recertify.

Business owners due for re-certification in 2017 can opt to sign up for a two year certification at the new rate, or utilize the grace period to re-certify at the previous living wage rate for one year, and then make the necessary adjustments by Jan. 1, 2018.

“The cost of housing, healthcare and food continues an upward spiral,” said Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, Living Wage Program coordinator Just Economics. “For employers, paying a living wage can mean lower employee turnover, a more motivated workforce, and the increased goodwill of the community; a living wage is a win for the entire community.”