Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

With the Austin City Council considering an electric rate increase that, as it is currently structured, would greatly impact low income wage earners, perhaps it would help if if we could see what it would be like to walk in a poor person’s shoes.  Most Americans know the facts about low-wage work, but many have been lucky enough to avoid actually having to live on $8 or $9 an hour.  A computer game called Spent gives you the opportunity to see what it would be like.

The game, by an advertising firm called McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham, N.C., starts with a choice: Would you like to be a server, a warehouse worker or a temp?Spent

From there, the choices get more difficult.

  • Should you pay to get your pet medical care, or let the animal suffer?
  • Should you go to the dentist or suffer yourself and save some bucks?
  • Should you let your child and a friend get ice cream, or do you need that $5 for bills?

The game is interspersed with facts about the choices people with very little money are making every day, and the consequences of those choices.

Want to see how well you could manage your money on a very low wage?  And when you are done, add $20 to $30 on for a utility service fee increase.   Play it yourself.

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Seal of Travis County, Texas

Image via Wikipedia

Austin Energy hired a consultant to help determine how its rates compare to those of other utilities in preparation for its plan to substantially raise electricity rates in 2012.   The work is ongoing, but an eye-opening statistic has already emerged.  Estimates indicate that the average US household’s energy costs are equal to 7% of household income, but the study shows that on average, the poorest 5 percent of Travis County households spend about 45% of their incomes on electricity.

That is a staggering statistic and points out the need to provide more energy efficiency funding for low-income families.  The short and long term benefits are economic relief and cost-effective home improvements. While assistance relieves pressure on individual households, the benefits also ripple into the community. With less money spent on energy, more money is available for other goods and services. If this money is spent locally, Austin captures this revenue, with further benefits rippling out from there.

Keep in mind, most low-income households are renters.  There should be incentives put in place to encourage landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties.  And don’t forget, there are environmental benefits to reducing our energy usage.  This seems like a win win for our city.

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