By Gabriela Sandoval

What if there was a way to ensure that the abundant prosperity of the Bay Area was more equitably shared by all Bay Area residents?

What if we could find a way for 150,000 Bay Area families — households currently living on the brink — to make ends meet while also generating an $8 billion economic impact for our region?

Rise Together Bay Area is an ambitious project that brings over 180 regional partners from the business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to “cut Bay Area poverty in half” by 2020. In reality, Rise Together Bay Area doesn’t just want to cut poverty in half; these groups want to find viable ways for families that have been locked out of accessing the Bay Area’s prosperity.

Last week, Rise Together Bay Area released new research conducted by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. This analysis, published in the report, Rise Together Bay Area: Promoting Regional Economic Success in the San Francisco Bay Area Region, shows that if the nine counties in the Bay Area join forces to implement smart public policies and scale successful local programs we could do just that.

We know that official measures of poverty fall far short of determining the cost of living in the Bay Area. According to the Self-Sufficiency Standard — a budget that measures the income necessary to sustain a family — a family of four (two parents with a preschooler and a school age child) in the Bay Area require $76,543 per year to cover their basic expenses, or four full-time minimum wage ($9/hr.) jobs. This is also more than three times the Federal Poverty Guidelines — $23,850.

We know that higher wages alone cannot solve the problems created by inequity that are such a drain on our economy, but our Bay Area brand of ingenuity can. According to our data, the key is a package of interventions that address three key drivers of family economic success: basic needs, such as housing and food, education and jobs.

The package of interventions we modeled included a regional $15 minimum wage, affordable rent (no more than 30 percent of income), increased education and a transitional jobs program. If we compensated people’s real contributions to the economy with fair wages and benefits, affordable housing and education pathways to sustainable employment, we could help 150,000 families obtain meaningful economic security — not just by federal standards, but by the real cost of making ends meet here in the Bay Area. We also found that these interventions would add $8 billion to the Bay Area’s economy, increasing prosperity for us all.

Most Bay Area residents agree that our economy is out of balance, and that many families can’t get ahead no matter how hard they work. Should we really be able to predict your life span just from your ZIP code? Shouldn’t all Bay Area residents who work be able to provide for those they love and set their kids off to a bright future? Shouldn’t our seniors who worked hard all their lives be able to live out their last years with dignity and safety in their communities? Doesn’t every child deserve access to a quality education?

It’s not as difficult as you may think to move closer to a more equitable and prosperous Bay Area. Rise Together Bay Area is proposing new and different rules that give everyone a chance. We know we can achieve more together as a region, from Sonoma to Santa Clara, than any of us could on our own. By connecting the evidence with public will to increase economic success, we have the power to create a vibrant economy that benefits all Bay Area residents. We also have the power to guarantee all children have access to opportunity and the resources to ensure no one in our communities goes without critical basic needs.

There’s still a lot of work to be done and we are confident we can achieve regional economic security with true dedication, resourcefulness and innovative spirit.

It will take all of us working together. Will you take the pledge to build a prosperous Bay Area? http://risetogetherbayarea.org/partner-pledge/

Gabriela Sandoval is Director of Research at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development’s mission is to help people and communities become, and remain, economically secure.

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