New data released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) shows Montana ranked among the worst in the country for average annual pay (49th) and number of low-wage jobs (42nd), and dead last for employers offering health insurance (51st – report counts DC as an entity).
The data show that extending health coverage to the working poor is an even greater imperative in Montana than in surrounding states. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah are moving forward with Medicaid expansion or in the case of Utah a non-Obamacare alternative like Governor Bullock has proposed.
“The overall economic wellness of our state will always be contingent on the financial health of all Montana families,” said Rep. Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls) executive director of Rural Dynamics, Inc., an Assets & Opportunity Network lead organization in a press release. “We urgently need legislation that builds and protects the wealth of Montana’s working-class families.”
Previous reports have found that Montana is also the worst in the nation for Veterans that are uninsured or undersinsured and for uninsured Native Americans.
To be sure, Montana does well in many categories – we are ranked first in the nation for small business creation rate. Montana also leads the nation when it comes to the small business ownership rate. Montana ranks in the middle or better half of states in Housing & Homeownership outcomes, earning the state an “A” grade. The state also receives an “A” in the Businesses & Jobs category, which speaks to why the state’s economy is doing so well under Bullock’s leadership. The report also notes that “Montana is one of a handful of states whose homogenous population and low cost of living have made it possible for residents to fare relatively well without significant government support,” which further counters the myth that extreme-right legislators are attempting to perpetrate as a cover to gut assistance for the neediest Montanans.
But the report also recommended the need for policies in Montana that can build a better economic foundation for the state’s current and future workforce. Montana should adopt a state Earned Income Tax Credit and raise its minimum wage to make work pay for low-income households. For those in jobs that do not offer health care benefits, the report also recommended that Montana ensure coverage for the most vulnerable families.
Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, has introduced a bill to the Montana Legislature that would raise the hourly minimum wage in Montana by about $2, with SB 2. Sen. Mary Caferro (D-Helena) has a bill draft request in for an earned income tax credit, LC615. And Rep. Pat Noonan (D-Ramsay) is carrying Gov. Bullock’s Healthy Montana Plan, HB 249, which is an alternative to Medicaid expansion that would cover 70,000 working poor Montanans by 2021.
To read an analysis of key findings from the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, click here. To access the complete Scorecard, visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard. They have some neat interactive data tools, including an asset poverty calculator, downloadable infographics, customizable charts and maps, and interesting data visuals that are worth checking out.
To do something about this – the Montana AARP has a nice, simple action page up. All you need to do is click here.