Broward County Commissioner Martin David Kiar recently volunteered to accept the current federal minimum wage for a week in an attempt to bring more attention to the issue. His experience was eye-opening.
"It was pretty tough," Kiar, who went the week of July 15 living off the Florida minimum of $7.79 an hour, tells New Times.
"I can definitely tell you it doesn't go far."
Kiar spent most of his week traveling via bus to avoid gas expenses. One of his bus rides, in particular, left quite an impression on him.
"I met a woman on the bus who couldn't afford a car. She lived in North Lauderdale and worked in Hollywood, so her travel time was three hours to work and three hours back home. Think about how long her days are."
Kiar also met a man at the grocery store who assisted in his shopping. With only a little over $40 available to spend on groceries, the commissioner was devoid of many of the food options he's become accustomed to.
"It was basically generic cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly for lunch," he says. "A lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chicken and plaintains for dinner."
According to Kiar, the average minimum-wage Broward County resident would have only $106.24 available per week for a family of four, after housing fees.
Factor in food and travel and that doesn't leave much available for entertainment or savings.
"What people would say to me would is 'I have $100 a week -- what if my child gets sick?' There are so many things that can happen that make it so stressful," he explained.
Kiar is back to his normal lifestyle this week, but that doesn't mean he's finished with his quest to raise wages.
"I saw a recent segment concerning minimum wage on MSNBC," he says. "It said that had the wages kept up with inflation since about 1965, minimum wage would be between $10 and $11 right now. That really puts things in perspective. It's incredibly important Broward County safeguards living wages, and I'd like to expand upon them."
Follow Dennis Bovell on Twitter @dbovell.
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