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New report details disparities in living wage versus minimum wage, proposes solutions to help those struggling

The University of Scranton
Jesse Ergott, president and CEO of NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania, proposes solutions to findings in the 2022 Living Wage Report during an event at the University of Scranton Nov. 29.

The University of Scranton and The Institute’s 2022 Living Wage Report seeks to find solutions for families to live modest but dignified lives in Northeast Pennsylvania.

“The purpose of the report … is to provide what we hope is useful data and information about socio-economic challenges," said Julie Schumacher Cohen, Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement & Government Affairs at the University of Scranton, "to use that information to advocate for policies that promote economic justice and then to stimulate community conversation around creative and collaborative solutions."

The organizations began collaborating on the report in 2016. The newest and third report showed there is still a large gap between the minimum wage — $7.25 an hour or just over $15,000 a year — and the living wage as well as the services needed for people in between.

“The study shows that too many of our neighbors experienced economic hardship," said Michelle Maldonado, Ph.D., interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the university.

A living wage is the rate a full-time worker needs to reach a standard of living that meets essential basic needs; it ranges from over $31,000 per year for a single adult to more than $100,000 annually for a household with two working adults and three children, said Andrew Chew, The Institute's Director of Research.

The institutions use the MIT Living Wage Calculator and input from local and regional community agencies to determine the local living wage, according to Cohen.

That rate in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties has increased by 39% since 2019. The data accounts for household spending like childcare and housing.

The report’s release on Nov. 29 featured a collaborative effort between stakeholders in the university's Leahy Hall. They discussed additional ideas to complement the report while in small groups.

“One of the first things that we need to do is make sure that we have a next step for this group," said Jesse Ergott, president and CEO of NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania." We need a common agenda to figure out what those things are and we need a space and some some organizations, entities, agencies that are willing to step up and and create and have the accountability to advance those things."

To read the full report, visit scranton.edu/livingwage.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.