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 -

Feb 28, 2002, 00:00 ET from United Way of New York City

    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
     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
     "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 .
     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 .
     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 .
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SOURCE United Way of New York City