BRAINTREE — Arline and Ashley Urquhart are barely scraping by. Arline, 42, makes a little more than $10 an hour managing the liquor department at the Walgreens in Downtown Crossing. Ashley, 19, makes $8 an hour, plus a few dollars a day in tips, at Dunkin’ Donuts in Dorchester.
The mother and daughter, who share a two-bedroom, rent-subsidized apartment and get free health insurance from the state, sometimes subsist on ramen noodles and protein shakes when the grocery money runs out.
The new minimum wage law enacted Thursday — pushing the hourly rate in Massachusetts from $8 to $11 dollars over the next few years — gives the state the highest base pay in the nation. But while it will help workers such as the Urquharts, it is still not considered enough for an individual to live on.
In Massachusetts, the hourly rate a full-time worker needs to pay for food, housing, transportation, and other regular expenses is at least $11.31 an hour, according to the Living Wage Calculator developed by an MIT professor. In Boston and Braintree, where the Urquharts live, it’s $12.65 an hour.
The pay raise Arline and Ashley Urquhart will get from the new law means they’ll be able to afford fresh fruit and lower-fat hamburger meat. They might be able to buy a real couch to replace the blanket-covered bench in the living room that serves as a sofa now. They won’t worry as much about the 10-cent increase in bus fare. Ashley could buy a decent pair of shoes; Arline would have the $30 she needs to apply to Quincy College.
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