3. Extra Fees
More than 40% of Americans say that they struggle to pay their monthly bills and would be unable to pay an unexpected $400 expense. The pandemic, presumably, has made this percentage greater. For that reason, fees that may be a nuisance to a financially comfortable family can be dangerous for working-class families. And yet, for working-class families, these hidden fees and sneaky expenses are quite common.
In addition to requiring minimum balances in a lot of cases, banks also charge overdraft fees, usually $35 each. But often, the account owner is not alerted to the overdraft for 2-3 days, meaning someone could unknowingly rack up fees in just 3 days that could take months or years to pay off.
Many banks have even shut down their branches in low-income areas like certain small, rural towns or urban areas, to save on costs. This forces citizens of those areas to use cash-checking establishments, where you often have to pay a fee to cash checks.
Many municipalities and states fund their budgets through tickets and fines. If you can’t pay a fine, even for a minor traffic offense, you could face jail time. For example, the ACLU once had to get involved in the case of a 19-year-old in Georgia who made an illegal left turn, then was forced to spend five days in jail when he couldn’t pay the $838 fine.
People living in low-income areas often must pay more for groceries, because it is difficult to buy in bulk if you are traveling by public transportation or walking home. This means people without cars often must buy their groceries in rural grocery stores or in corner stores, where the prices are higher.
Sometimes the nature of a job forces people into extra expenses. For example, low wage work rarely allows work from home, so parents must pay for daycare. Sometimes people pay for a day of child care and transportation only to arrive at a retail or warehouse job and be told that their services will not be needed that day.
Many workers are listed as part-time, meaning they get no benefits like healthcare, but their “extra hours” mean they end up working full-time, just without any benefits.
Low wage jobs also often mean less free time, and hours that are not flexible. This makes it difficult for many families to go through the lengthy, bureaucratic processes required to receive government assistance.
There are many people who need or are eligible for government aid, but they do not receive it because they do not have the time or money to wait in line, fill out paperwork, or attend meetings during work hours.