Testimony on SB 32: AAC Working Families Wages, February 18, 2014

2139 Silas Deane Highway                       Raymie H. Wayne, Ph.D., JD, MSW, President

Suite 205                                                  Stephen A Karp, MSW, Executive Director

Rocky Hill, CT 06067                                naswct@naswct.net

(860) 257-8066


Testimony on SB 32: AAC Working Families Wages

Submitted By: Stephen Karp, MSW, Executive Director


NASW/CT representing over 3,000 members supports Senate Bill 32. As social workers, we see a strong need to raise the current minimum wage in order to help Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations out of poverty, which is one of our primary missions as a profession. To put it succinctly, full time work should not leave a worker or family still in poverty. The current minimum wage does exactly that.


Many of the 3,000 social workers that NASW/CT represents work with people who are struggling to keep their heads above water financially. According to the Connecticut Poverty Report put out by the CT Association for Community Action, people in poverty are not able to thrive and become self-sufficient because their minds are too consumed with how they are going to put food on the table tonight. As social workers, we see this stress firsthand on the faces of the people we work with who have minimum wage jobs that pay too little to get by on.


The impact of poverty, including hunger, insufficient income for quality housing, parents having no choice but to work multiple jobs that take away from time with their children and the mental pressures of the daily struggle to get by, all impact negatively on all the members of a low wage earners family, but especially on the well  being of children. This Legislature has placed significant emphasis on children and education. But all of our attention to school aged children and education reforms will not be successful when those school age children arrive at school hungry and impacted by living in poverty despite having one of more employed adults in the household working at low wage jobs.


According to the CT Poverty Report, it is said that as of 2010 there were 720,000 people in Connecticut who were living in poverty or in jeopardy of falling into it. Since then the economy has gotten worst. This means that over 21% of Connecticut residents are not strongly contributing to the livelihood of our state simply because they are not able to provide their families with the life they deserve.


The current minimum wage of $8.75 in the state of Connecticut is not helping people out of poverty- in fact it is keeping them there. Many people that social workers deal with on a daily basis are just as hard-working as anybody else but they cannot make ends meet because of the fact that they are making such a low wage. Take for example a single mother with two children who works forty hours a week at a minimum wage job ($8.75/hr). This mother would get a check of $350.00 a week before taxes. At this wage, she would have an annual salary of $18,200.00 before taxes, which puts her family below the federal poverty line for a family of three, which is approximately $19,000.00 a year. Would you want to raise a family on $350.00 per week before taxes?


Some employers who oppose raising the minimum wage claim that they cannot afford to pay more. What they either fail or choose not to understand is that low income households will spend their increased wages in their local community. Higher wages will translate directly into greater local economic activity that directly benefits our state businesses.  As for large corporate retailers that pay minimum wage their doing so shifts costs to public sector safety net programs. These companies are not struggling businesses but their employees are struggling individuals and families because of the low wages their employers pay. This corporate shift to public sector responsibility is an inexcusable action by large employers that can pay better.


Pulling people out of poverty is a multifaceted process, but raising the minimum wage would be a huge step in the right direction.  The working members of these families are dedicated and hard workers but they are still not able to get by in one of the wealthiest states in the nation. The time to help low wage workers climb out of poverty is now and this is why NASW/CT supports SB 32 and we strongly urge you to vote this bill favorably out of committee.

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