Pointing to the rising cost of housing, the local living wage level has also increased, the Asheville-based nonprofit Just Economics announced last month. The nonprofit, which has set a living wage standard for area employers since 2008, defines a living wage as “the amount a worker needs to make in order to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.” Now, that amount is $12.50 an hour or $11 an hour if the employer offers health insurance. Since 2013, the living wage was $11.85 without insurance or $10.35 an hour with it.
The new living wage totals to about $26,000 a year without insurance or $22,880 with, assuming a 40-hour work week. The nonprofit considers workers who receive tips as receiving a living wage if their wage plus tips exceeds that amount.
The towns of Montreat and Weaverville, as well as Buncombe County and the city of Asheville, all use the nonprofit’s living wage standards to set the baseline for their public employees’ wages. Asheville, however, has an exception to the living wage rate that’s currently the topic of some debate.