New report says minimum wage in Florida should be doubled to support working families

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A new report says that the mininum wage in Florida simply doesn't allow families to make ends meet, and that a true living wage in Florida would amount to just less than $17 an hour (officially $16.98).

"This reflects what's needed to make basic needs, and also to maintain some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead," said Allyson Fredericksen, Policy Associate with the Alliance for a Just Society based in Seattle. 

That group has recently produced a new report called The Job Gap: Families Out of Balance, an in-depth look on family debt and the living wage in Florida. 

A living wage is the hourly pay needed to cover the cost of housing, food, utilities and other expenses, including modest savings. The Alliance for a Just Society calculations include owning a telephone, but not cable television or Internet service.

The report calls on policymakers in Florida to seriously look at a number of prescriptions to improve the lives of working families, such as:

Reinvest in higher education
Expand Medicaid eligibility
Regulate payday lending
Increase the federal minimum wage
Abolish the federal tipped minimum wage

Of course, some of those measures have been tried and rejected in the conservative Florida Legislature. South Florida Democratic state Senator Dwight Bullard was pushing a bill this spring that would have increased the state's minimum wage from $7.93 to $10.10 an hour, and increased the tipped minimum wage to $10.10 as well (It's currently at $4.91).

And the Democrats' push for Medicaid expansion has been well noted, and has gone nowhere in the past two years, despite the fact that Governor Rick Scott endorsed doing that in 2013.

"It doesn't mean that we won't continue to find ways to push for these things," said Stephanie Porta with the Orlando-based group Organize Now. In 2012, that group was able to collect over 50,000 signatures to put a measure on the local ballot mandating paid-sick-time for local employees. But before citizens could vote on it, the Legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed legislation that would block local governments from enacting mandatory paid-sick-time measures.

Undoubtedly Ashley Rogers would benefit from such a law. She's the single mother of three kids all under the age of 10. She was working as a customer service representative at a Suntrust bank full-time, earning between $29,000 and $32,000 a year. Then she picked up a virus that her daughter had, forcing her to take several days off from work. 

Then she had her hours cut dramatically, reducing her pay to just $17,000.

"It's been a real struggle, and just listening to the numbers and reading the statistics and everything, I've been questioning myself, like, how are we maintaining," she said on a conference call Thursday morning. "What can we do as far as a community, as a family, to come together to help solve this so issue so that we're not so far behind, in bills and medical expenses, so that we can get the proper care and treatment to survive?"

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