Illinois Minimum Wage Gets a Raise

Businesses say they can't afford pay increase in bad economy

By Matt Bartosik
|  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009  |  Updated 1:19 PM CDT
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Illinois Minimum Wage Gets a Raise

You're looking at the minimum wage increase in Illinonis. A quarter.

Effective July 1, Illinois' minimum wage will rise 25 cents to $8 an hour.

The increase is courtesy of former Gov. Blagojevich, who in 2006 approved automatic increases every year until July 2010.

If a person working for the new minimum wage worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, he/she would earn a salary of $16,640 a year (before taxes).

But while many workers are happy to see more money in their paychecks, businesses argue that this pay raise comes at the worst time. In this tough economy, businesses aren't prepared for the pay increases.

Anthony Liberatore, a professor of economics at Milliken University in Decatur, told Pantagraph.com that businesses could see a drop in profits as a result. Some establishments may have to raise prices in response to the extra labor costs. Worst yet, some biz owners may feel the need to cut hours or lay off workers.

And don't assume that the minimum wage raise only affects teenagers at their new summer jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly 80 percent of minimum wage workers in Illinois are grown adults, not teens. And approximately 99,000 of those workers are parents.

While it is arguably possible, working for minimum wage certainly wouldn't be a comfortable lifestyle. Many workers are eligible for federal assistance, but the amount of aid is reduced because the recipient is employed. They also usually cannot afford health insurance, nor can they afford to take a day or more off work. And taking public transit would be a must, as gas prices would become an incredible expense.

Could you survive on minimum wage? Could you pay rent, buy groceries, have insurance, and potentially raise children on less than $320 a week?

Matt Bartosik is the editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and a "between blogs" blogger.

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