Craighead county "living wage" higher than Arkansas' minimum wage

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - What you make versus what you spend each month is a stress that many people can relate to. After paying for the necessities like housing, food and utilities, making ends meet isn't always easy.

In Arkansas, minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour and as we learned, for several counties in Region 8, that often doesn't cover what someone should earn to support themselves.

"We can't expect them to buy groceries and pay rent and pay utilities on seven and a quarter," Gary Harlan told Region 8 News.

For Arkansans earning that $7.25 an hour minimum wage though, that's often the reality.

"Considering the cost of living around here, gas, utilities, it's pretty high," Evelyne Weatherford said.

An economic geography professor in Massachusetts created a "cost of living" calculator based on government data. According to that calculator, in Craighead County, the "living wage" or the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support just one person is over $8 an hour.

The rest of Region 8 falls slightly under that but most counties "living wage" is still over Arkansas' minimum wage.

"We need to be thinking about it and we need to be working every way we can to get the minimum wage up so those people can make a living," Harlan said.

"What it needs to go to, I couldn't really answer that but by the statistics you have, it's pretty low," Weatherford said.

In looking at the numbers with Jonesboro resident Gary Harlan, he said minimum wage should be at least a dollar more than it is now.

"I know that a dollar is a lot to ask but I think that would be minimal," Harlan said.

One group is working to do that. Give Arkansas a Raise Now is currently gathering signatures to get the issue on the ballot for November's general election. If it passes, it'll raise minimum wage to $8.50 an hour but not until 2017.

"It's not that it's due today, it should've been done two or three years ago."

For a look at how your family dynamic in the county you live in falls into those statistics, click here for the Living Wage Calculator.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All Rights Reserved.