2017-05-17 / Front Page

County ranks high in cost of living

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


This chart shows how much a single person or family need to earn hourly to make ends meet in Michigan. This chart shows how much a single person or family need to earn hourly to make ends meet in Michigan. LAPEER COUNTY — A new report issued last week puts the cost of living in Lapeer County among the highest in the state.

“Making Ends Meet in Michigan” was made public by the Michigan League of Public Policy.

The comprehensive report that takes three years to produce estimates minimum income levels needed in each of Michigan’s 83 counties for individuals and families to live without receiving public or private assistance.

Lapeer ranked No. 6 on the list, behind (in order) Washtenaw, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, and Wayne counties. Rounding out the top 10 (also in order after Lapeer) are Ingham, Kalamazoo, St. Clair, and Eaton counties.

Knowing such information is important for many reasons, said Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst, Michigan League for Public Policy, including letting “the public know how much it really costs to live in Michigan.”


Rob Rhein, a technician at the Greater Lapeer Transportation Authority, lowers a lift on one of the organization’s buses to perform regular maintenance. Transportation is a factor in a county’s cost of living. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Rob Rhein, a technician at the Greater Lapeer Transportation Authority, lowers a lift on one of the organization’s buses to perform regular maintenance. Transportation is a factor in a county’s cost of living. Photo by Andrew Dietderich “For many people, being poor can be very expensive,” Ruark told The County Press. “When you need to have a job in order to provide for your family oftentimes that means you need to pay for things like child care and transportation, which take a huge chunk out of your budget.”

As the title suggests, Ruark said, the goal is to provide “a realistic picture of what it takes to make ends meet in Michigan.”

In Lapeer County, that means making $11.67 an hour for a single adult, or about $24,300 annually. That’s higher than Oakland ($11.58 an hour) and Macomb ($11.55 an hour).

A single adult in Lapeer County with two children needs to make $23.95 an hour, or about $49,800, a figure that is lower than both Oakland and Macomb.

A family of four with both parents working and two preschool-aged children need to each make $14.35 an hour or about $59,700, also slightly lower than Oakland and Macomb.

If only one parent works in Lapeer County, that parent needs to make $16.31 an hour, or about $33,900 (figures with one parent working are lower due to less costs associated). That’s higher than Oakland and Macomb counties.

All of the figures for Lapeer County are above statewide averages.

“As you can see, a worker needs to earn a lot more than minimum wage to make ends meet,” Ruark said, pointing to the current minimum wage of $8.90 an hour that’s increasing to $9.25 in 2018.

Ruark said the report issued last week reflects a more complete picture of what is happening in each county because “the poverty line doesn’t really tell us about hardship.”

According to its website, “The Michigan League for Public Policy seeks to reframe the discussions around need, wage standards, public assistance and what it means to live in economic security. Lifting people above the poverty line clearly is not enough. Instead, we need to make sure that all Michiganians can meet their families’ basic needs.”

“Making Ends Meet in Michigan” is issued every three years because of the amount of work that goes into producing it, Ruark said.

Housing costs, for example, takes into account the Fair Market Rate of a region provided by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

Food costs are based on figures provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Low-Cost Food Plan, which generally means generic and less expensive foods typically prepared at home.

Health care costs comes via data available through the government’s health care marketplace exchange set up in accordance with the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Ruark said it’s been issued since the late 1990s and has been widely used by various organizations, such as those that provide social services, governmental bodies, and legislators “so they can see what kind of expenses there are in their own counties.”

Kelly Bales, executive director, Greater Lapeer Transportation Authority, said stats like the cost of living report are among the reasons her organization works to keep rates low. GLTA operates a fleet of 27 buses that helps get people everywhere in the area from their jobs to grocery stores and medical appointments.

“We know that if we increase fares that’s going to lessen the amount that people can actually afford to go out,” she said. “So we do try to keep as much costs down as we can.”

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