Overall, the unemployment rate in Knox County and in District 89 looks healthy at 4%. However, some statistics about District 89 have stood out for me. For one, median household income in Knox county is $48,000 while the median income in our district is $57,000. Our per capita income is $30,000. Only 9% of our district residents are considered below poverty level while 16% of Knox County residents are below poverty level. 91% of our residents have a high school diploma, 37% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 94% of our residents speak English only and 9% of our population are Veterans.
Where I believe we can have an impact in our community:
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Tennessee does not have any legislation regarding minimum wage so we use the default federal minimum wage which is set at $7.25 an hour. If someone works at this rate for 40 hours a week, they only make $15, 080 a year which is below 138% of the federal poverty level which would qualify them for expanded Medicaid if Tennessee had that option. I believe we should enact legislation that sets a minimum wage higher than that of the federal government. People cannot live with wages as low as these.
- We need to make sure we have students graduating with the right job skills for the jobs we have and make sure we have the right jobs for the skills our students are graduating with. As I talk with voters around the district, I am also meeting with school principals and business leaders about issues and trends they see in our area. This will allow me to see what types of businesses and career technical courses to try to bring to the area.
One Republican talking point this election season is that Tennessee has a low unemployment rate and several businesses have moved into the state and created more jobs for our residents. They are correct on all of those points. However, what these politicians fail to mention is that Tennessee also leads the nation in having the highest amount of minimum wage jobs. So while our unemployment rate is low, our wages are low too. Our wages need to keep up with what it takes to actually live in this state.
As your representative, I will work to raise our state minimum wage and also work with community and business leaders to bring skills and jobs that work for us! If our graduates want to stay close to their communities when they graduate then we should try to make sure we can facilitate that by having the wages and jobs to support that.