New York City

Elected officials try to live on minimum wage

Not so easy on $14 a day

July 23, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Twenty-eight prominent New Yorkers, including elected officials in Brooklyn, are trying to make it in the big city on a minimum wage budget.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Council Members Letitia James, Jessica Lappin, Donovan Richards, Steve Levin, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams are among those who have joined what’s being called the “minimum wage challenge.”

The representatives are living on the budgets of low-wage workers this week to experience how the average low-wage Joe lives in New York.

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Officials, as they go about their busy lives, have been tweeting their experiences. It hasn’t been easy.

Public Advocate de Blasio tweeted on Monday, “Turkey sandwich: $7.35. Cash left for the week? $84.65.” For lunch on Tuesday he made do with a slice of pizza. “Hoping this slice will last until dinner. Full meals don’t come easy when you’re spending $14 a day.”

Queens Councilman Donovan Richards said, “Just had a butter roll for breakfast which cost me$1.00. Down to $91 now.” Later he updated, “$6 to park my car for a half an hour. Down to $85 for the week.”

“I am joining the $7.25 Challenge to show my continued commitment to fighting for a living wage,” Council Member and candidate for Public Advocate James (D-Fort Greene-Crown Heights-Prospect Heights) said in a statement. “This is an opportunity to experience firsthand what an individual goes through on a daily basis while making $7.25 per hour and trying to provide for themselves and their family.”

“While living on $7.25 per hour for just one week cannot come close to the reality of living without financial security for months and years at a time, it is still critically important that elected leaders understand how a person lives at this level of income,” said Council Member Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights-Greenpoint-Williamsburg).

Each elected official’s personal spending—food, transportation and other expenses — is limited to the take-home pay of one of the city’s everyday workers from fast food workers to supermarket shelf-stockers. Low-wage jobs are the fastest-growing occupations in New York City, with the number of workers being paid minimum wage increasing ten-fold over the past six years.

Minimum wage workers in New York City, who earn $7.25 per hour, make roughly $15,000 a year if they work full time. A report by the Economic Policy Institute says that to make ends meet, an adult with a child in New York City needs $67,153 a year.

UnitedNY and New York Communities for Change launched the  #CanYouSurvive website to document the representatives’ experiences.

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