Skip Navigation
Regional News
Advocates for New York State's hungry rally at the Capitol in Nov., 2012 for an increase in the state's minimum wage. Some social services agencies are concerned about a wage hike. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Advocates for New York State's hungry rally at the Capitol in Nov., 2012 for an increase in the state's minimum wage. Some social services agencies are concerned about a wage hike. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Minimum wage hike pinches social service budgets

Listen to this story
As state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo finalize the state budget, it looks like New York will raise the minimum wage gradually over three years.

Under the emerging agreement, the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage would increase to $8 an hour in January, to $8.75 at the beginning of 2015, and reach $9 an hour by the end of 2015.

If it happens, it would mean a wage jump of 24 percent in three years. Business leaders have expressed concern about the increased costs, while labor unions, religious, and anti-hunger groups are pushing for the hike.

Social services agencies in the North Country say increasing the minimum wage could help some people, but it also gives them reasons for concern.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this


Explore this

Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

The St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services provides assistance to people who need help paying for food, heat, child care, and employment. Commissioner Chris Rediehs says on one hand, a higher hourly wage is an effective incentive for people on government programs.

"I think it could make a significant difference on morale. An increase in one's pay encourages people to look for work, it encourages people to work."

Rediehs says that's especially true for young people.

The county runs a summer youth employment program, that's funded by the state. He doesn't expect to get more money for the program, even though it will have to pay higher wages. That means it will need to be scaled back.

"The program might not be as long this summer as it would be otherwise, with a lower minimum wage. And the supplemental educational components to the program might be reduced. Financial help with transportation may be limited as well."

Rediehs says they are doing what they can to maintain the number of young people in the program. He says people who work when they're young are more likely to remain part of the workforce.

The St. Lawrence NYSARC, which helps people with developmental disabilities, employs more than 600 people. Director Daphne Pickert says the organization is already facing catastrophic funding cuts from the state. And a hike in the minimum wage would only increase their costs.

"Whenever the minimum wage goes up, it affects agencies like ours."

Pickert says they just don't have money to pay people more.

"The proposed minimum wage hike is quite significant. If that goes into effect without being phased in over a period of time, without any cost of living adjustments, then I think that also the overall workforce, and how we're going to be able to retain people."

The agency may need to cut one out of every ten staff members. Pickert says the biggest issue for NYSARC is preventing a $1.3 million state funding cut, but she says they also have to consider how a wage hike will impact the agency's budget.

According to media reports, budget negotiations in Albany do include a phase-in on the minimum wage hike, but that hasn't been finalized.

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.