South Dakotans like to tout low unemployment statewide, but that doesn't mean everyone in the state is getting richer.
Two conflicting reports released this week point out the state’s salaries; the first says income is rising even though, according to another report, wages remain low in the state.
“[The money] only stretches so far. Even if you get a little help from child support, they still cut you off from that,” Jessie Meng said as she stood in line for a hot meal Wednesday night at The Banquet in Sioux Falls.
Meng knows dinner time comes every night even if you can't afford it. To extend her monthly family budget, Meng depends on others. It's why she is at The Banquet for dinner. People of varying incomes all come here for a hot meal in a sometimes cold world where need is high and the ability to pay doesn't always exist.
“I go to churches or even the food bank if I need help to clothe them as best I can,” Meng said.
She is an example of a local lifestyle highlighted nationally this week. South Dakota is not as financially sound as it seems. The people here are often working multiple low-paying jobs just to balance out.
“And they still don't make ends meet. It's so hard. Even people with cars have to go out of state or out of town just to work,” said Karen, who did not want to share her last name.
Karen was at The Banquet with her daughter and grandchildren because dollars don't add up in her household either. With inflation, those making low wages in the state make less today than they did ten years ago, according to Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.
“You've got to budget for the winter time because you're not going to be out there in the snow trying to feed your child. So you've got to plan for that,” Karen said.
Because all families, rich or poor, are just trying to take care of each other, especially the single moms like Meng who are focusing on their children's needs, hoping for the means to meet them.
“If they've never experienced what we go through, they're lucky. They need to be fortunate with what they have because they could be struggling in life just making ends meet for our own kids,” Meng said.
The good news is that while salaries are low, they are rising steadily. The U.S. Department of Commerce says the state leads the nation in income growth, even if not everyone is getting a piece of that bigger pie yet.