New York City's Low-Wage Workers Are First in Nation To Benefit from 'Self-Sufficiency Calculator'
United Way of NYC and HRA Deploy New Tool to Inform
Working Poor of Their Specific Eligibility for Subsidies & Tax Credits
To Assist in Their Transition to Financial Independence
- Over 800,000 Eligible for Subsidies & Tax Credits, But Unaware -
NEW YORK, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- New York City today became the first municipality in the nation to deploy a new software tool that will help low-wage workers achieve financial self-sufficiency. At a New York news conference, United Way of New York City, along with the Human Resources Administration (HRA), unveiled the "Self-Sufficiency Calculator for the City of New York," a tool developed by the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement to enable nonprofits to provide low-wage workers with step-by-step instructions on how they can bridge the gap between earnings and their cost of living and develop a long-range plan for financial independence. The tool, now being tested at five local agencies, will be made available at no cost to government and community agencies, employers and educational institutions. The "Self-Sufficiency Calculator" allows counselors and case workers to inform low-wage working families on their eligibility for benefits such as subsidies and tax credits to supplement their income, provide local information on how to access these benefits, as well as a family-specific calculation of how well a given wage will meet their basic needs. For example, according to the study on which the Calculator is built, a single parent in Brooklyn, New York, with one preschooler and one school-age child must earn a minimum of $44,592 per year -- without any government or private support -- to make it out of poverty. The figure is based on the average cost of basic necessities within the borough. Counselors analyze the outcome of each client's calculation and counsel them on the steps they can take to achieve self-sufficiency, including determining how expenses can be reduced or what training they may need to earn a higher wage. "We saw a need to increase the awareness of these benefits, as well as provide working families with long-range solutions that will help break the cycle of dependency. We reached out to nonprofits and HRA to join forces and address poverty in a way that no organization could do alone," said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, United Way Senior Vice President and Chief Executive for Agency Services. "If everyone who was eligible for food stamps knew they were eligible, we'd put a big dent in hunger in this city." For instance, recent studies show that an estimated 800,000 New Yorkers are eligible for food stamps, while another 300,000 are eligible for Medicare. But many subsidies are underutilized because individuals do not know they are eligible and therefore do not apply. Or, they lose their subsidies due to system errors and do not know they are still eligible. "Our primary goal is to help people move to self-sufficiency, and we are eager to explore innovative ways to achieve that goal," said Verna Eggleston, Commissioner of HRA. "We will set up a pilot project to determine if the self-sufficiency calculator will be part of our intake process." For both families and caseworkers, the Self-Sufficiency Calculator represents a centralized resource that has not been available before, providing application process information, links to helpful Web sites, telephone numbers and contact information for the subsidies incorporated into the Calculator. These subsidies include the welfare cash grant, child care assistance, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus, Food Stamps, Women, Infant, Children (WIC); energy assistance, housing subsidies, the Federal and State Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Care Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The Self-Sufficiency Calculator for the City of New York was developed for the Women's Center with eligibility formulas provided by Diana Pearce, Ph.D. of the University of Washington and software development by Daniel Beeby. The Calculator builds upon The Self-Sufficiency Standard for the City of New York, a September 2000 study by Dr. Pearce with Jennifer Brooks, of Wider Opportunities for Women, that charts the actual cost of living and working in New York City. It measures how much a family must earn to pay for housing, food, childcare and other basic necessities -- if they do not receive any help from friends, relatives or the government -- based on the ages, as well as the number of children in each household, and, the borough in which the family lives. "This tool has the power to change people's lives by providing solutions on how they can close the gaps between what they earn and the amount truly necessary to become self-sufficient in this city," said Merble Reagon, Executive Director of the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement. Working poor families can now use the Calculator with staff at five NYC-area locations, including the New York Urban League (Brooklyn), the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement (Manhattan), Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (Bronx), National Puerto Rican Forum (Bronx), and Chinatown Manpower Project, Inc. (Lower Manhattan). Additional sites in Queens and Staten Island will be announced shortly. Agencies interested in receiving a copy of the Self-Sufficiency Calculator for the City of New York can contact the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement at (212) 964-8934 or visit their website at http://www.wceca.org . How It Works The tool screens a working individual's income eligibility for various subsidies, including public assistance, Food Stamps, Women, Infants and Children; Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), child care, Medicaid, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Credit. Support fact sheets provide low-income families with information regarding eligibility criteria, how to apply for benefits, local contact information, application forms when possible, and local nonprofits that assist families with access to these supports. The Calculator also links to federal, state, and city agencies and to nonprofit assistance, for example, links to information regarding Disaster Relief benefits and legal assistance centers. United Way of New York City (UWNYC) is a volunteer-led organization dedicated to helping New York's most vulnerable citizens become and remain self-sufficient. UWNYC funds a network of the most effective health and human services nonprofits in the five boroughs; mobilizes collaborative efforts to address our community's most pressing needs, and provides management assistance, technology training, donated computers and more to help nonprofits achieve maximum impact. UWNYC's Web site address is http://www.uwnyc.org . Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement is a 32 year-old nonprofit organization committed to the career and economic self-sufficiency of African-American and other women in the New York City metropolitan area. The Center targets low-income women with serious barriers to paid workforce participation. Through a range of programs, services and supports, women are helped to build competencies and develop effective strategies for realizing career and economic goals. The Women's Center Web site address is http://www.wceca.org . MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X71219323
SOURCE United Way of New York City
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