Are Food Stamps in Your Future on the Olympic Peninsula? Local Economics & the Self-Employment Struggle in Rural Washington State

According to ToughNickel.com’s article, How to Get Food Stamps or SNAP Benefits When Self-Employed, there are six fields of self-employment that often require food stamps for economic survival:

1. Online Sellers / Flea Marketers

2. Writers

3. Affiliate / Commissioned Salespeople

4. Seasonal Workers / Lawn Care Professionals 

5. Agricultural Workers / Farm Stand Owners 

6.  Craftspeople / Artists

Basically, anyone who receives an IRS 1099 Form most often applies for food stamp benefits.

Learn about Benefits in Washington State here: 
washingtonconnection.org/home/ 

Learn about Benefits in another state here: 
fns.usda.gov/snap/apply 

According to the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) in 2017 Clallam County had a population of 74,240, of which 68% (50,573) received assistance of some kind from DSHS, of which 21% (15,417) received basic food program assistance (the second largest group after clients receiving medical eligibility assistance). 

According to the Clallam County Economic Development Corporation’s October 2017 county profile report, job growth in the non-farm sector of the county was ‘less than spectacular, averaging less than the state and national increases’ while government was the biggest non-farm employer with 7,730 jobs in August 2017.

That same month, the civilian labor force for Clallam County was 28,162, which is 38% of the county population 74,240.

The largest jobholder age group in the county since 2016 has been age 55-plus.

As well, the EDC’s county profile report states that the average annual wage in Clallam County in 2016 was $37,510, which was $21,563 below Washington State’s average annual wage of $59,073.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: According to ToughNickel.com’s article, the 2017 Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of three was $20,420. That means that the difference alone ($21,563) between making a living in Clallam County or somewhere else in Washington State is great enough for a family of three to rank above poverty and not need food stamps to survive in Washington State. That is just how large the income gap is in Washington State between rural and urban areas.

But, does that mean anything when the difference between two average income levels in the same state is great enough to be an entire household's income for a family of three to live above the poverty guideline? 

To me it means that people in Clallam County, for whatever reason, are paid disparagingly less than in other areas of Washington State, no matter the gender; and that there is a serious detrimental gap in earnings on the rural north Olympic Peninsula when compared to Washington State that nobody wants to openly talk about (except me).

People in Clallam County can’t work just a few extra hours each week to make up $21,000 in order to catch up to workers in Seattle and Tacoma. The reality is that $1,700 a month makes up an entire year’s income for some families, and making an extra $1,700 a month on top of regular pay is not easy to do on the peninsula.

Money does not flow the same way in this rural region as it does in a major city two hours away; a reality that is not always understood until it is lived day after day after day.

The question my research leads me to is this:
Why are rural workers of all genders viewed as being worth less, when they pay the same license fees and taxes to work (and live) in Washington State as urban workers who earn more for doing the same work?  Is this location discrimination? 

I have struggled with this conundrum for over four years now and I am still perplexed by the substantial lack of earnings reported on the north Olympic Peninsula when compared to other parts of Washington State; and why it is that business owners and private individuals refuse to pay workers what they deserve and what they are worth -- enough to keep them off state benefits. 

Whether or not my question ever gets answered beyond 'that's just the way it is' there will always be another question for residents on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington State: Are Food Stamps in Your Future?

If you're not sure, please refer to the Clallam County EDC report linked above in this article to better understand the economic workings of Clallam County.

Learn about Benefits in Washington State here: 
washingtonconnection.org/home/ 

Learn about Benefits in another state here: 
fns.usda.gov/snap/apply


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