Orange County Living Wage Rises to $15.40 An Hour In 2021

Orange County Living Wage (OCLW) announced a new annually adjusted living wage of $15.40 an hour, effective January 1, 2021. For living wage employers who provide at least half an employee’s health insurance coverage, the living wage rises to $13.90 an hour. A living wage is the minimum amount of income a worker needs to cover their most basic necessities without any form of governmental assistance.

OCLW calculates its living wage by using the widely accepted Universal Living Wage Formula based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standard that no more than 30% of a person’s gross income should be devoted to housing. To calculate the wage each year, OCLW considers the average cost of a one-bed apartment in a four-county area that includes not only Orange but surrounding Alamance, Chatham, and Durham Counties, home to many who work in Orange County.

The year 2020 marked the fifth anniversary of OCLW’s program to certify employers who pay a living wage. Since 2015, the Orange County living wage has increased annually by an average of 3% to keep up with the rising cost of housing. Despite the challenges faced by employers to meet this gold standard, more than 250 employers have been certified since the beginning of the program and the 222 on OCLW’s current roster employ more than 9500 employees. In this past year of unprecedented health and financial challenges, 24 new employers were recognized for their commitment to pay a living wage. By contrast, employees making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour have not seen an increase in their pay since July 24, 2009.

“During the pandemic, Orange County’s living wage employers are not unique in their day-to-day struggles to stay in business – with one exception,” says Susan Romaine, director of OCLW. “Making payroll will always be harder for the 222 employers on our roster who pay their employees a living wage. Let us support these employers by giving them our business and our thanks for making this critical investment in their workforce.”