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One Million Dollar City Study on Living Wage Bill Wrong on Key Assertion, New Analysis Proves
The City’s million- dollar study opposing the enactment of a living wage bill is wrong when it asserts that the increased salaries mandated in the measure would significantly deprive workers of nutrition assistance benefits, according to a new analysis by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
Citing the City’s study, Tokumbo Shobowale, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, testified before the City Council May 12th, argued that a “living wage” to New Yorkers would decrease household participation in income-support programs and offset, to some extent, the increase in household earnings caused by mandates.
However, in an analysis of the estimated income of New Yorkers earning the minimum wage compared to their income after earning a “living wage”, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger found that the extra earnings for living wages workers would dwarf any potential reductions in food stamps benefits for those workers.
Some of the findings in the analysis show that a single person working full-time, earning $11.50 per hour (the wage mandated by the bill for employers that provide no health care), would earn over five-hundred dollars more a month than they would earn making the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour plus monthly SNAP benefits. In other words, the slight decrease in food stamps benefits would be far outweighed by the large jump in earnings.
If the single person in question were earning $8.00 an hour (a more typical, real--life wage for retail workers in New York City), then they would already earn too much money to be eligible for food stamps benefits. Thus, the living wage bill would increase their monthly income by $530.43 – and thus their yearly income by $6,365 – but would not lose them a cent of food stamp benefits, since they weren’t eligible for such benefits to begin with.
“Out of all of the bogus reasons people in power use to not pay their workers higher wages, the most absurd has been that it would in fact hurt the workers themselves,” said Joel Berg the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “Our analysis proves that the benefit of providing a living wage dwarfs any benefits lost by no longer qualifying for certain public assistance programs. Besides, is the Bloomberg Administration really trying to argue that it’s better for workers to survive on public benefits than private wages? On a related note, we reject the claims by opponents of the bill that passing it would prevent more supermarkets from locating in low-income neighborhoods. Stores that provide food certainly can pay wages high enough so their own workers can obtain food.”
“The Bloomberg Administration has unfortunately pulled out all the stops in order to cast aspersions on our bill,” said Council Member G. Oliver Koppell, a sponsor of the Fair Wage for New Yorkers Act, “including arguing that increased income will deny people food stamp eligibility. Even if this assertion were true, which according to the experts it is not; it should be our goal to economically empower individuals so that they will be on the road to self-sufficiency, which is exactly what this legislation attempts to accomplish.”
“Last week at the Council’s hearing on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, the Administration made a ridiculous claim that this bill would actually increase poverty by forcing people out of nutritional assistance programs, thus decreasing their total incomes,” said Council Member Annabel Palma of the Bronx, who is also Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “This nonsensical assertion illustrates just how far the Administration will stretch the truth to fight a bill that would provide thousands of New Yorkers the necessary tools for financial empowerment and self-sufficiency.”
Said Council Member Brad Lander, another co-sponsor of the bill, “Here's the shameful truth revealed in Bloomberg Administration testimony: New York City taxpayers are giving millions in tax breaks -- in the name of job creation -- to the Yankees, the Mets, Related Companies, and Goldman Sachs for projects where the workers are paid so little that they need food stamps to get by,” said Council Member Brad Lander, another co-sponsor of the bill. “The Fair Wages for New Yorkers act would make sure that our economic development subsidies go to create good jobs that lift people out of poverty. It’s too bad the Bloomberg Administration is stuck on keeping them in it."