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Living wage in Buncombe County jumps to more than $17 an hour

Living wage in Buncombe County jumps to more than $17 an hour
Vicki Meath, the executive director of Just Economics, said the living wage, or the minimum amount it takes to meet basic needs, has jumped from $15.50 to more than $17 an hour in Buncombe County. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The cost to live in Asheville will be significantly higher in 2021, according to new data from Just Economics.

Vicki Meath, the executive director of Just Economics, said if you were making the living wage in 2020 you’re now going to have to make almost $2 an hour more to make enough money to live in Asheville in 2021.

Meath said the living wage, or the minimum amount it takes to meet basic needs, has jumped from $15.50 to more than $17 an hour in Buncombe County.

“We know that the cost of housing has continued to rise exponentially in our community, and that has impacted the living wage rate increasing,” Meath said.

Meath said this is the first time the living wage has increased three years in a row. She said, before that, they were seeing an increase every other year or so.

The idea of increasing living costs is unsettling for Asheville workers already strapped for cash.

“Rent prices just keep going up, honestly, constantly,” said Kyle Oyer, a cook in downtown Asheville.

Oyer works with Kat Byrd, who agreed that every dollar counts.

“I’m going to get my check cashed right now, and it was like 30 more dollars than I expected it to be and I’m ecstatic. Like, $30 makes a whole hell of a ton difference,” Byrd said.

77 ASHEVILLE FIREFIGHTERS MAKE LESS THAN $15 AN HOUR, GROUP SAYS

Meath noted that the living wage increase is happening as some businesses and the city of Asheville couldn’t meet the last living wage. She pointed out the 77 firefighters who still don’t make $15 an hour.

“The city has disregarded their own policy when it comes to firefighters, as they’re not currently not paying their firefighters the old living wage rate,” Meath said.

FIREFIGHTERS, FRIENDS & FAMILY RALLY DOWNTOWN FOR PAY EQUITY

According to Zumper, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Asheville is $1071, an 8% increase from last year.

“We all say the same thing, it’s a struggle,” Byrd said.

Meath said Just Economics will not be requiring living wage certified businesses to pay the new living wage right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION CENTER: TRACK THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS, IMPACTS, AND HEADLINES ABOUT THE PANDEMIC HERE

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