January 19, 2019
"When one person's livelihood changes, it can impact an entire family, then a whole community. "
As we enter day 29 of the partial government shutdown, you may be wondering if this affects you. While, yes, the partial government shutdown has affected our national parks and government offices such as the Federal Forest Service, the shutdown has also impacted over 6,000 Idahoans directly. Idaho is a small state and 6,000 out of 800,000 federal workers, who are currently affected by the shutdown, is significant. It is equivalent to the workforce of Chobani and the Idaho National Laboratory combined. As of last Friday, some of these Idahoans have not received a paycheck and some of those have been working with no pay. For many Idahoans, not receiving a paycheck just once can force some to make difficult decisions between paying their mortgage or putting food on the table, making their car payment or paying for healthcare costs. More than one missed paycheck almost guarantees that Idahoans will have to take out loans, miss a rent payment, or postpone long term financial decisions such as buying a house or retiring. For the first time ever, thousands of federal employees are having to turn to programs such as, food banks, to feed their families. This government shutdown has and will ruin people's credit, bank accounts, small businesses, families, and their lives. Beyond directly affecting federal employees, the shutdown impacts our most vulnerable populations.
Individuals who rely on food assistance programs such as SNAP will receive payment on January 20th, but it is unclear if this will be their last payment for weeks or months if the government continues to be shut down. Idahoans who belong to tribes will not receive payment for medical care, low-income seniors will stop receiving boxes of food from the Department of Agriculture, Section 8 Housing vouchers will expire leaving some homeless in March, and the list goes on. Americans deserve to get back to their lives without strenuous financial concerns.
Workforce Development Council
On the topics of societal well-being and Idaho's workforce, we are focused on improving the need for skilled workers for industry in Idaho. Last week, the Workforce Development Council met to discuss some of the barriers Idaho's workforce faces and revealed some shocking statistics. The Idaho Department of Labor presented statistics on how Idaho's low wages do not keep up with rising housing costs. The exit of young adults out of state for opportunities has created a skilled workforce deficit in key growth industries. With Idaho's fast growth, the state must prioritize infrastructures such as roads, bridges, sewage, electric, healthcare, and broadband systems.
Areas of Growth
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the industries with the most growth in 2018 were Natural Resources, Professional and Business Services, and Manufacturing. A notable industry in decline is Leisure and Hospitality which impacts our tourism economy. The Department also noted that by 2020 there will be an increase of 27,300 jobs, with 5,000 of those being in the healthcare sector.
Currently, Idaho ranks 44th in the nation for wages with a median wage of $33,250, dropping 3 places in one year. Additionally, Idaho has the lowest wages when compared to all our surrounding states. By comparison, Montana's median wage increased by $1,090 raising its ranking by 42nd to 39th. If Idaho wants to attract and keep our best and brightest, we must increase wages in order to stay competitive.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Idaho's labor market is escalating home prices and rents, compounded by a lack of inventory. The median home value in the state is $246,200. Therefore, wages are not keeping pace with housing prices. For example, 47 percent of people are spending more than a third of their monthly income on rent. Currently, the ratio of wages to rent costs is worse in Ada county than in San Francisco.
In 2017 alone, over 75,000 people migrated to Idaho from surrounding states. Over the past decade, the vast majority of this in-migration are retirees over the age of 65. Not only are these people not contributing to our workforce, but they are putting a strain on our healthcare system and county services. Idaho needs to plan for substantial growth that places pressure on infrastructure needs.
As always, it is a pleasure to represent our district in the Idaho State Senate. I appreciate your continued input and comments as we deliberate legislation.