Orange County Living Wage (OCLW) announced a new annually adjusted living wage of $14.90 an hour, effective January 1. For living wage employers who provide at least half an employee’s health insurance coverage, the living wage is $13.40 an hour. A living wage is the minimum amount of income a worker needs to cover his or her most basic needs (rent, utilities, food, transportation, childcare) without any form of governmental assistance. 206 employers in Orange County voluntarily pay their employees living wages and certify with OCLW as living wage employers.

To calculate its living wage, OCLW uses the widely accepted Universal Living Wage Formula. This formula is based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standard: no more than 30% of a person’s gross income should be spent on housing. For its living wage calculations, OCLW defines “housing” as the average cost of a one-bed apartment in a four-county area comprised of Alamance, Chatham, Durham and Orange. OCLW includes the surrounding counties to calculate average rent because only 20% of those who work in Orange County also live here. Many local employees are forced to live in and commute from surrounding counties where housing is more affordable.

“For the first time, Orange County’s living wage is more than double the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour,” said Susan Romaine, director of OCLW. “While our living wage adjusts for rising rent, the state and federal minimum wages have not budged in over 10 years. OCLW is extremely grateful to our living wage employers who are helping their workers make ends meet at a time of an affordable housing crisis here at home as well as across the state and country.”

OCLW’s living wage roster includes public, private, and nonprofit employers based in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, and the throughout the county.  To qualify as a living wage employer in 2020, all full- and part-time employees must earn at least $14.90 an hour, or $13.40 for those paying at least half the cost of health insurance. Exemptions include interns, minors working part-time, probationary employees and apprentices, seasonal and project-based employees, and contract employees.