Minimum wage increases as businesses navigate pandemic

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Professional Security Services has been a local family business for about four decades. But the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges.

“We’ve lost half of our security at the moment,” said owner Jane Casey. “And we have a transportation company. We haven’t had any business since March.”

She and some other small business owners say with the pandemic reducing revenue and adding safety costs, the minimum wage increase is the last thing they need right now.

“It can’t come at a worse time for Rhode Island small businesses,” said Christopher Carlozzi of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Especially for those smaller employers who find it hard enough to absorb cost increases. But to see them all come down the pike at once, it’s overwhelming.”

He says he understands the motivation to help struggling workers, but says those workers might get fewer hours — or be out of jobs completely — if businesses are forced to close.

“You want to say workers might be receiving more per hour, and the end of the day in a paycheck, they might end up with less money because they’ll have reduced hours because the employer needs to find a way to offset those rising costs,” Carlozzi said.

But the Economic Progress Institute says raising the minimum wage is necessary to keep essential businesses like healthcare facilities staffed, and makes economic sense.

“It really is a good return on investment,” said the institute’s Rachel Flum. “Folks who are earning minimum wage will spend that money right back in the economy.”

She says Rhode Island needs to raise its minimum wage to stay competitive with states like Massachusetts.

“People can go across the line and work in often safer, easier jobs and make more,” Flum said.

Massachusetts is currently scheduled to raise its minimum wage from $12.75 to $13.50 an hour in January.

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