$ 17.70 for Asheville, Buncombe, according to Just Economics



ASHEVILLE – The minimum amount that workers can earn and afford to live in Buncombe County has increased, according to a nonprofit that calculates the local living wage.

Workers are now expected to earn at least $ 17.70 an hour – or $ 35,450 a year – said officials at Just Economics WNC, which uses local rents to determine the rate of pay. That’s more than $ 10 more than the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 which has not increased in 12 years.

“Our rate of living wage is based on the cost of housing, and housing continues to get out of hand,” said Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics, Jan. 6.

The new living wage comes as local wages continue to lag behind the national average in an area that is the most expensive in the state.

The method of calculating the salary has changed this year. Before 2022, workers with employer-paid health insurance could earn less per hour and continue to earn a living wage.

The new method means that the salary has increased by 40 cents from the 2021 non-insurance salary of $ 17.30. But for those earning the insurance-based 2021 living wage of $ 15.80, the new wage is a jump of $ 1.90.

The change was made because the ability to pay rent, rather than having insurance, was seen as the top priority, Meath said.

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Living wage Buncombe since 2011

2011 $ 11.35 or $ 9.85 with employer-provided health insurance

2012 same as in 2011

2013 $ 11.85 or $ 10.35 with employer-provided health insurance

2014 same as 2013

2015 $ 12.50 or $ 11 with employer-provided health insurance

2016 same as in 2015

2017 $ 13 or $ 11.50 with employer-provided health insurance

2018 same as in 2017

2019 $ 13.65 or $ 12.15 with employer-provided health insurance

2020 $ 15.50 or $ 14 with employer-provided health insurance

2021 $ 17.30 or $ 15.80 with health insurance provided by the employer

2022 $ 17.70

Employers who pay a living wage can be certified by Just Economics, which business owners often tout with a certificate displayed near the entrances. Under the new calculation method, those offering health benefits will get a special identifier in the Nonprofit Nonprofit Employer Guide, Meath said. The guide currently shows 306 certified employers in Buncombe and 132 in other counties.

The salary is set so that 33.3% of the salary goes to rent. This represents an increase from 30% in 2021 and previous years – another change in the calculations.

Federal Fair Market rent is used, which is the 40th percentile of gross rents for “standard quality units in a metropolitan area or non-metropolitan county,” according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. That went from $ 799 in 2019 to $ 1,099 in 2021, falling to $ 990 this year.

Just Economics uses a four-year average of the FMR, which for 2019 to 2022 is $ 983.25.

The Biltmore Company, which includes the Biltmore Estate, starts all positions at a minimum of $ 15 an hour, said Chris Maslin, vice president of human resources and organizational development.

“Biltmore continually evaluates compensation in our market, in order to remain competitive with salaries as part of total benefits,” said Maslin.

He said the company offers benefits that improve wages, including profit sharing, 401 (k) health insurance, rent and childcare supplements, and tuition reimbursement.

The company’s website included jobs such as a cedric tavern dining attendant at $ 15 to $ 20 “depending on business volume and tips included” and a housekeeping position. at $ 15.75.

Mission Health / HCA, another of the county’s large employers, did not respond to a request for comment. The mission listed parent jobs such as patient care technician and certified nursing assistants, but gave no rate of pay.

The living wage is supposed to be a “starting point” for compensation, Meath said.

The Biltmore website offers jobs starting at $ 15 an hour.

As the director of a nonprofit, she understood the pressure that labor costs could put on an organization, but said the new salary was meant to reflect “both the realities that people face. workers are faced with the field and the feasibility for the companies “.

When workers earn less, it means that many of those who help make the Asheville area special – artists, musicians and others – are moving to cheaper areas.

Those who remain may be forced to live in overcrowded or substandard housing or may not have housing at all, she said.

“I think what this has to tell us as a community is that we need all the stakeholders to look for solutions to more affordable housing and to really get wages and housing in a more manageable place and progress to a flourishing salary, for it is only a salary where someone can survive.

Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at jburgess@citizentimes.com, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Help us support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.



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