The minimum wage rate for Upstate New Yorkers is once again set to increase at the end of the year.
In their decision to go ahead with the planned increase, state labor department officials said they wanted to help workers who have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But small businesses are worried about what this means for them.
For the past four years, the state has been incrementally raising the minimum wage in a phased planned approach.
However Ken Pokalsky, with the Business Council of New York State, says right now businesses desperately need help and this is not the time to be piling on extra costs.
“At a time when we’ve been begging Congress for financial help to struggling small businesses, it seems the wrong time to be imposing increased costs on sectors that are struggling to hang on, let alone recover,” Pokalsky said.
For Westchester and Long Island, the minimum wage will increase to $14.00, up from $13.00. New York City will stay at $15.00. For the rest of the state, the minimum wage will increase to $12.50, up from $11.80.
While this increase is less than a dollar for upstate jobs, Pokalsky says that this will costs businesses annually around $1,400 per employee.
“These are sectors that are still hurting,” Pokasky said. “Their revenues are not going up, or they are growing very slowly. They certainly haven’t recovered. So it’s going to be a challenge for them just to keep the jobs they have today, let alone grow. This isn’t going to help.”
However, as Assemblywoman Pat Fahy explained, these workers have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many have seen their shifts cut down and have been working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“Workers, so many have gone from full time to part time work, because businesses are hurting,” Fahy said. “Small businesses, independent businesses, I keep urging people, buy local, shop local. So we know businesses are hurting. So it’s not the best timed increase in minimum wage, but it is one I do believe must go forward.”
Assemblywoman Fahy said that she understands businesses need to receive assistance from both the state and federal government in order to survive the next few months, but disagrees that this is the area to cut.
“I want to go forward with that upstate minimum wage just because it’s been planned for at least five years now,” Fahy said. “It is the last increase planned at this point but it is significant. In the meantime let’s work on saving small businesses elsewhere, but this is not the way to do it.”
Right before the pandemic, the state achieved record low unemployment at 3.7% following four years of increases to the minimum wage.