Getting By in the Green Mountains

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This January, Vermont’s minimum wage increased to $7.68 an hour. That’s considerably higher than the federal minimum wage of $5.85. But evidence shows that many people who earn well above that rate are finding it almost impossible to make ends meet. And the gap between most hourly wages and the real cost of living is getting wider. As part of VPR’s weeklong series on "Getting By," we talk with livable wage advocate Colin Robinson and free-market economist Art Woolf. We explore who’s getting by — and who isn’t — in the Green Mountain State. We look at what it might take to improve the situation. And we take your calls and e-mails. (Listen)

Also on the program, a conversation with Carol MacLean, a Bennington bus driver and single mom, about her struggles to keep the lights and heat on, and make sure her children get to go to college. (Listen)

And we visit with Steve Leonard of Rutland. He’s a "redemptionist" — that’s a sorter at a beverage container redemption center. He reminds us that every job is important.(Listen)


Photo: Claudia, a Bennington woman from Colombia, boards the bus for her job as a hotel housekeeper in Manchester. En route, she listens to English tapes in hopes of qualifying for a higher-paying job.

VPR photo by Susan Keese


Comments from Listeners about ‘Getting By’

Eric in Waterbury

My wife and I both work full time and have 3
children. My yearly increase was 3%, but the cost of living has risen
many multples of that in the last few years. Although our income might
seem adequate number wise, every month we lose a little more ground. So much
for the American Dream.

Brianna Edwards

I graduated from college last year and am now working in Chittenden County making almost $14 an hour. I am supporting my partner as he finishes his degree at UVM. There are some weeks that we need to go without buying food for a couple of days before I get my paycheck. I try to stay optimistic knowing that in the summer my partner will be able to contribute to our income but when I have to make the choice of paying my student loans, credit card bills, and car payment or buying food, my hope gets lost along the way. I’ve gone to financial counselors and all they have to say is that I need more money to stay afloat. I’m lucky that I am in a temporary situation. It seems like a crime that in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, citizens need to struggle just to feed their families. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for those who are only making minimun wage! I, unfortunately, don’t have any answers; I can just hope that this massive problem is recognized and dealt with soon before it continues to further ruin our working class.



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