Montana News

Feb 11, 2011 6:27 PM by Melissa Anderson (Helena)

Montana cost of living addressed

How much does a Montana family need to earn in order to make ends meet?

That was the question asked and answered by research conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty.

A new web-based budget calculator will help families find out just how much it costs for them to live in Montana.

Another interactive tool was designed to show the impact of federal and state work supports on low- to moderate-income families.

According to the seven locations studied in Montana, families need incomes over twice the federal poverty level to cover their basic needs.

Michelle Chau, a research analyst with Rural Dynamics Inc, said, "For a family of three I think it ranged from maybe $39,000 to maybe $45,000...and I think that Kalispell was the most expensive city that we looked at."

According to Northern Plains Initiative program director Christina Barsky, "A family of three, a mother or father with two children making minimum wage in Montana, really isn't making enough to get by, and how those work support programs, things like low-energy assistance, child care assistance, food support really are required to help families get ahead in Montana. And when families get more money, so you're getting a raise at work, how those can be disincentives for families."

The study will be used to teach people how to become less dependent upon government resources as well as how to budget and save.

The calculators will be available at the NCCP website early next week.

From the RDI website:

NCCP's Family Resource Simulator and Basic Needs Budget Calculator are web-based policy analysis tools designed for policymakers, administrators, advocates, and researchers. The Family Resource Simulator calculates the impact of federal and state work supports on the budgets of low- to moderate-income families. The Simulator concretely illustrates the effectiveness of current policies in encouraging and supporting work.

The Basic Needs Budget Calculator is a related tool that shows how much a family needs to make ends meet without the help of work supports. These tools will model expenses and work supports in Beaverhead, Cascade, Flathead, Havre, Lewis and Clark, Roosevelt, and Yellowstone Counties.