The Fund for the City of New York is proud to announce that it is now the home of the NYC True Cost of Living (formerly the New York City Self-Sufficiency Standard). It was previously sponsored by the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement (WCECA), which has been a Fund Partner Project for a decade. The NYC True Cost of Living defines the income working families need to meet their basic necessities without public or private assistance, and it is a powerful tool to advance equity.
The NYC True Cost of Living stands in stark contrast to the outdated Official Poverty Measure (OPM) in that it accounts for location (it divides New York City into seven geographic areas), family composition, and all basic costs of living, from healthcare and housing to childcare and food. The most recent report found that over 1.6 million struggling New Yorkers are being overlooked by the OPM, which was adopted in the 1960s and hasn’t changed since.
Produced by the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the NYC True Cost of Living is rooted in methodology used to calculate basic needs in 41 states. WCECA, led by its Executive Director Merble Reagon, has been the lead sponsor for six NYC reports (carrying the name NYC Self-Sufficiency Standard) since 2000, including the most recent: Overlooked & Undercounted 2021: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in New York City
A clear understanding of basic needs is a foundational step towards equity–NYC True Cost of Living budgets can be referred to when setting wages privately and publicly, and setting benefit eligibility thresholds for programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and more. This kind of shift would be lifesaving, as many New Yorkers’ wages are not keeping pace with a drastic increase in costs. For example, from 2000 to 2022, the cost of living in Queens increased by 118%, but wages have only increased by 58%. Additionally, many public benefits and tax credits that help supplement wages, like the Child Tax Credit, don’t increase when the cost of living rises.
FCNY will continue to cast light on the difficult economic reality facing New Yorkers through the NYC True Cost of Living, but citizens will have the opportunity to increase awareness of this crisis by voting in November on a proposed ballot measure that requires the City to realistically gauge the cost of living in NYC on an annual basis beginning in 2024.
In the spring of 2023, the Fund will produce the next NYC True Cost of Living report. It will offer a much-needed look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on New Yorkers’ economic well-being. We will work closely with our partners, the United Way of New York City and others, to ensure the report’s findings are amplified, and that marginalized voices are heard when calling for better wages and work supports. As we move this work forward, we thank Ms. Reagon and WCECA for championing the NYC True Cost of Living for 22 years, and we look forward to carrying on WCECA’s legacy of advancing the well-being of working women and their families.