How far will your stimulus check go? Living wage calculator shows Wake, Durham County singles may not be able to cover bills

ByDiane Wilson and Maggie Green & Samantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Friday, May 1, 2020
How far will your stimulus check go? Living wage calculator shows Wake, Durham County singles may not be able to cover bills
While many are grateful for any extra assistance, we found the check isn't enough for everyone.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- How far will your stimulus money go? If you're fortunate enough to get a check, the ABC11 I-Team crunched the numbers to see if it will cover your bills for a month.

We looked at 2018 data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator to determine the average monthly expenses for a single adult with no kids and a family of four across central North Carolina counties. We included expenses for housing, food, medical care and car insurance. We did not include the price of gas, car repairs or car loans, nor did we include the cost of childcare, since many parents are keeping their kids at home for now.

Through the federal cares act, single adults in North Carolina that make less than $75,000 per year will get a stimulus check of $1,200. A family of four that makes less than $150,000 jointly would get a check of $3,400--$2,400 for a married couple plus $500 for each child.

The Nadolny family, who live in Knightdale, said the stimulus money was a lifesaver.

"It came the perfect time because we had not paid our mortgage for April yet so we were able to take care of that," Sara Nadolny said.

The family of four got $3,400 in stimulus money, which they used to pay the mortgage and repair their cars.

"We needed almost $2,000 in car repairs in order to pass inspection and our tags were set to expire the end of this month, so we were very fortunate to have all of that work done as well," Nadolny said.

While many are grateful for any extra assistance, the check isn't enough for everyone. Crystal Brewer lives in Wake County and lost her bartending job due to COVID-19.

"I as soon as I got the stimulus, I paid three or four back paid bills," Brewer said. The rest went towards groceries for the month, but she said there wasn't enough left over to help her pay rent.

Brewer is not alone. The ABC11 I-Team analyzed cost of living data for nearby counties and found in places like Durham, Wake and Chatham County, a single adult's basic monthly expenses exceed the $1,200 stimulus check.

The MIT data showed the average cost of rental housing in Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Franklin and Johnston counties was higher than in surrounding areas. For example, the average rent in Wake County, based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Market Rents estimates, is $846 for a studio apartment. That's nearly double the cost of a similar space in Warren County ($436).

To estimate food costs, MIT made conservative estimates based on the United States Department if Agriculture's low-cost food plan national average for 2018, which assumes families buy lower cost foods and eat at home for every meal. We also did not include household items like cleaning supplies or paper products in the cost of groceries, which would add additional expenses.

However, for a family of four, basic expenses including rent, groceries and medical expenses averages to around $2,000--an amount that's affordable with a $3,400 check.

And of course, the stimulus checks were a one-time payment. In no counties will the payments cover two months' expenses, for either single adults or a family of four.