- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - More than 3,800 Virginia state employees, nearly 4 percent of the workforce, are paid annual wages below the federal poverty level of $23,850 for a family of four, state figures show.

The total includes more than 900 workers whose salaries are below the federal poverty level of $19,970 for a family of three, and 135 workers who earn less than the $15,730 level for two-person households, the Richmond Times-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1ARHgE5) reported.

Jobs with poverty-level wages include hospital food service workers and housekeepers, school security officers, mental health workers, deputy sheriffs, corrections workers, secretaries, researchers and associate professors.

The number of state employees who receive federal assistance such as food stamps has increased from 892 in 2011 to 2,287 in 2013. In 2007, only 12 state employees received federal assistance, the newspaper said, citing statistics compiled by the Virginia Department of Human Resources Management.

The number of food stamp recipients increased from 856 in 2011 to 1,898 in 2013. During the same period, the number of state employees receiving Medicaid benefits rose from 97 to 729.

There also has been an increase in the number of state employees receiving funding under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This number has risen from 12 to 88 during the period.

In 2013, 575 employees qualified for energy assistance from the federal government.

“The stagnation of wages has been a continuing problem,” Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, told the newspaper.

He said lawmakers have not provided funding for merit-based raises since the General Assembly changed the compensation formula for state employees in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased.

“They’ve gone backwards,” Marsden said.

Marsden has introduced legislation for the 2015 session that would help low-income workers in the private sector. The bill would gradually increase Virginia’s hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017, unless a higher federal minimum wage is in place by then.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com


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