HUDSON — Some New York state senators are calling for a pause on the scheduled minimum wage increase.
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-62, Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, and members of the Senate Republican Conference sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeking a pause of the scheduled minimum wage increases on Long Island, Westchester and areas outside of New York City.
“It’s crucial that our state step up and help the countless small businesses that are struggling during the ongoing COVID pandemic,” Jordan said in a statement. “A temporary pause in minimum wage increases would help our small businesses that are desperately trying to keep their doors open and avoid laying off workers. This and other common-sense steps should be taken to help our job creators and their employees who are hurting and facing incredible financial hardship.”
The minimum wage is scheduled to increase Dec. 31, from $11.80 an hour to $12.50 an hour in most of New York state and from $13 an hour to $14 an hour in Long Island and Westchester counties. The minimum wage in New York City is $15 an hour and is not scheduled for an increase.
The letter sent to the governor calls for the scheduled increase to the minimum wage to be temporarily suspended due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses in the state. The letter also says the scheduled minimum-wage increase would exacerbate the problems businesses are facing because of COVID-19.
In total, 12 Republican state senators signed the letter, which asks for the increase to be suspended until small- and medium-sized businesses become more stable after the pandemic.
“Our small businesses are hanging on by a thread and in order to help businesses stay open and keep all of their employees, we cannot add any additional financial hardship at this time,” Ortt said in a statement. “The Governor has the power to temporarily pause minimum wage increases and we urge him to do so until the end of the pandemic. We do not want our small businesses to make the difficult choice of laying off workers or closing their doors because this becomes the final straw during the financial fragility of the pandemic.”
Ninety percent of small businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans have entirely spent down those funds and are ready to start the loan forgiveness process, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Twenty percent of small businesses believe they will shut down within six months and 19% believe they will close within a year, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
“Anything that right now would help to minimize expenses for the businesses would obviously be a help,” Greene County Chamber of Commerce President and Executive Director Jeff Friedman said. “The uncertainty of the COVID crisis is certainly putting a strain on businesses in many different ways. A bigger help to businesses would be for the federal government to find their way to finally make an agreement and get more business relief to business, that would be a far greater help.”
New York state has been increasing the minimum wage over the past several years. As part of the 2016-17 state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation enacting a statewide $15 minimum-wage plan. The plan calls for the minimum wage to increase yearly until each region of the state has reached a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
The state reported that the increase to a $15 minimum wage would help an estimated 2.3 million New York workers who earn minimum wage.
In December 2016, the first yearly wage increase went into effect, the rate of each year’s increase differed based on region and industry.
The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.