A recently released employment and income report shows that more than one in four Colorado households can’t afford to pay for their basic needs. And an estimated 294,000 Coloradans live in “deep poverty”, defined as $5,885 per year for an individual and $10,045 for a family of three. The number of people living in deep poverty increased by nearly 33,000 between 2007 and 2015.
The State of Working Colorado 2016 report was published in December 2016 by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a nonprofit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization. Although the report reveals some bright spots -- such as the addition of nearly 271,000 more Colorado jobs and an increased state median income of $63,900 – other indicators are troubling. Many Coloradans are struggling with wage stagnation, under-employment and poverty.
“A growing number of jobs pay less than what’s needed to support the health and well-being of most Coloradans,” the report stated. “In 2000, an estimated 10 percent of jobs paid less than the self-sufficiency wage. By contrast, that number more than doubled to nearly 21 percent of jobs in 2015.”
Specifically, the report shows that Colorado is grappling with:
- An overall labor force participation rate that is still below the pre-recessions level, particularly in men ages 25 to 54
- A median hourly wage of $18.49 – still below the 2007 median wage of $19.32
- Job growth that isn’t keeping up with Colorado’s surging population growth; although the economy has 2.62 million jobs, Colorado needs to create nearly 118,000 additional jobs over the next three years to return to pre-recession employment levels
- 15.4 percent of part-time workers said they would rather have a full-time job
- A range in median household incomes from a low of $31,000 in Alamosa County to a high of $103,000 in Douglas County; about three quarters of Colorado’s 64 counties had a median income below the statewide median income.
Energy Outreach Colorado assists thousands of low-income families and seniors across all parts of the state who struggle with these issues by providing energy bill payment assistance and efficiency programs to help lower their home energy costs. In the year ended September 2016, EOC made 19,177 energy bill payments for households across the state.
“I tried getting more hours at work for the last six months but they have kept me part-time,” said a Denver single mother who recently received energy bill payment assistance.
“The apartments where I once lived were sold and I was asked to either pay more rent or move,” said another assistance recipient.
For more information about Energy Outreach Colorado’s assistance programs, go to energyoutreach.org/get-help.