Area reps weigh in on D.C. aftermath

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda

The New York State Department of Labor on Wednesday announced the state’s $15 minimum wage phase-in will continue, with the next stage taking effect Dec. 31, 2020.

The announcement comes after a statutorily required report by the Division of the Budget found the Upstate, Long Island and Westchester labor markets – where the minimum wage is scheduled to rise – are leading New York’s economic recovery from the downturn caused by the global pandemic.

The report said that, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State had achieved record low unemployment following four years of increases to the minimum wage. The report also said that minimum wage workers need support today, as they were disproportionality impacted by the pandemic’s economic toll, with those earning the minimum wage representing a large portion of the hardest-hit industries, including retail trade and leisure and hospitality.

The minimum wage will rise to $14 per hour on Long Island and in Westchester, and to $12.50 in the rest of the state.

The Department of Labor’s decision prompted the following response from state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, who is also the Senate Minority Leader:

“The Department of Labor’s decision to move forward with a minimum wage increase is extremely short-sighted at a time when small and mid-sized businesses face state ordered shutdowns and the looming threat of a statewide lockdown by the Governor.

“These smaller employers struggle each and every day to keep their doors open, and invested heavily in safety measures to keep their employees and customers safe from COVID-19. The state has done nothing to help them.

“The last thing they need is additional costs at this time, and the last thing they want is to pink slip dedicated employees for Christmas. But instead of pausing this increase as the Senate Republican Conference urged until the end of the pandemic, the state will now force these small employers to make difficult choices. The state wrongly based their decision on pre-pandemic economic success.

“These small employers would have been more than willing to share that success in better times, but the financial fragility caused by COVID-19 and this decision will now put these workers, these small businesses, and New York’s economy at greater risk.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1