By ANNA ISAACS
CNS Special Report
COLLEGE PARK – A parent with two young children needs at least $54,000 in income to get by without government assistance in Washington County, and a family of four needs as much as $68,000, a new study shows. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Social Work based their calculations on the local costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and other essentials in each of Maryland’s counties.
One of Washington County’s biggest employers is the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the economic downturn. And many residents are struggling with reductions in hours and more part-time work, said David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.
He said staff are working overtime at the department, a state agency that provides housing, food and cash assistance, to keep up with a steep increase in applications for help.
“I think we’re holding our own,” he said.
The University of Washington study did not determine how many working families have incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Census Bureau data show that roughly 41,075 people — about 29.3 percent of the population — in Washington County live in families with incomes less than 200 percent of the census poverty threshold. (For a family of four, twice the threshold would be about $44,000.) The census data count the elderly and other categories that were not included in the self-sufficiency calculations for working families.