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A Better Measure of Need: The Real Cost Measure in California

Thursday, May 23, 2019 -
1:00pm to 3:00pm PDT
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
101 Market Street | San Francisco, CA 94105
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Creating widespread economic opportunity in the Bay Area, especially for communities of color, requires a better understanding of what a decent standard of living actually costs in our region. The commonly used federal poverty measure vastly understates poverty in high-cost places like California. This means that many more families than commonly estimated are left without support, and struggle to meet their most basic needs. 

The Real Cost Measure, developed by the United Ways of California, factors the costs of housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs to determine what it really costs to live in communities across the state. Their 2018 report found that one in three households in California do not earn enough income to meet basic needs, and households led by people of color struggle at higher rates. In our rapidly changing Bay Area, high housing costs have pushed many low-income people of color out to high poverty neighborhoods in Contra Costa and Solano counties, where resources and infrastructure are not sufficient to meet needs. We can and must do more to identify and implement policies and programs that can lift California’s huge number of struggling households out of poverty and create an inclusive economy that works for everyone. 

Join the Community Development Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Northern California Grantmakers to learn about the Real Cost Measure, the accompanying interactive tools, and what the data tells us about poverty in the Bay Area. Join us and our distinguished panelists in a conversation about what it takes to make ends meet in our region and state, and the roles we can play in creating widespread economic opportunity in the Bay Area.


Kelly Batson, Senior Vice President, Community Impact, United Way Bay Area
Kelly joined United Way Bay Area in 2006 as a Program Associate with our Earn It! Keep It! Save It! free tax preparation program and the UWBA leadership team in 2018. Kelly oversees our community impact work, which includes our Four-Pillar programs. Prior to this role, Kelly led our Program Operations, our AmeriCorps VISTA program, the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! and 211 programs. Kelly has a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management.

Caroline Danielson, Policy Director and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California

Caroline Danielson is a policy director and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Her research focuses on multiple dimensions of the social safety net, including its role in mitigating poverty, program access and enrollment, and the integration and governance of programs. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals, including the Journal of Policy Analysis and the Social Service Review. Before coming to PPIC, she was a principal analyst at the University of California’s Welfare Policy Research Project and a faculty member in the Department of Politics at the State University of New York, Potsdam. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND graduate school.

Henry Gascon, Director, Program and Policy Development, United Ways of California


Henry Gascon is Director, Program and Policy Development at United Ways of California. In this role, Gascon conducts policy research and analysis, leads communication strategies and assists with organizational operations. He is a co-author of Struggling to Get By: The Real Cost Measure in California 2015 which introduces a new poverty measure that conveys the true cost of living in California's communities and has promotes the Human Development Index, which discusses well-being in health, education and financial stability.

Previously, Gascon was a Policy Analyst at Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the Director of NPower Los Angeles, a social service organization that provided technology education services for the Southern California nonprofit sector. He holds Bachelor degrees in History and International Relations from Holy Names University in Oakland, California and a Master’s in Public Administration specializing in policy analysis from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

Vera A. Moore, Vice President, Community Relations Manager, Office of Nonprofit Engagement, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Vera A. Moore is a Vice President in the Office of Nonprofit Engagement (ONE) at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Vera works closely with community advocates and JPMorgan Chase senior leaders to build initiatives and relationships that advance access to opportunity and economic mobility. Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase, Vera served as the Director of the Urban Youth Empowerment Program at the National Urban League, where she oversaw a $10 million workforce development, education, and training program targeted to Opportunity Youth living in high-poverty, high-crime communities nationwide. She also managed the Consulting and Technical Assistance Division at Seedco, where she provided capacity building services to foundations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations focused on workforce development, asset building and work supports. A former Manhattan Borough President’s Office Community Planning Fellow, Vera holds a Master’s of Urban Planning from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2015, Vera completed a competitive fellowship with Coro Leadership New York. She also completed the African American Board Leadership Institute’s Board Leadership Program in 2018.

Solana Rice, Director for State & Local Policy, Prosperity Now

Solana manages a team that identifies strategic opportunities for Prosperity Now to advance state and local policies that improve financial security for families, especially for families of color. In the last two years, Prosperity Now has supported state coalitions nationwide to establish Earned Income Tax Credits, eliminate savings penalties, establish children’s savings accounts, and more. Rice focuses on providing tailored assistance that builds public support through our online campaigns, timely research that shapes policy design and compelling local data on household financial security. Last year, Prosperity Now supported over 25 state coalitions in their advocacy.