As of July 1st, the Connecticut minimum wage was raised to $14/hour as part of a 5-year plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2023.
The primary goal of the law was to provide Connecticut residents with wages that they could survive on. It was seen as especially important for low-income families to be able to support their children, according to the majority of Connecticut state legislators and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, who supported the plan.
After 2023, the law requires the minimum wage to become indexed to the cost of living index, which is calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor. The rate will grow according to economic indicators, for the first time ever in Connecticut.
Connecticut is not the only state to have a plan to steadily increase the minimum wage. Massachusetts is moving along a similar track, increasing their minimum wage by 75 cents every year until they reach $15/hour. Connecticut and Massachusetts are both on track to reach $15/hour, with Connecticut doing so in June, and Massachusetts raising it in January.
Numerous states including New York, Delaware, Nevada, Florida, and more have raised their minimum wages this year as well, but not quite as high as Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Prior to the 5-year plan, in 2013, before the latest minimum wage increase law was signed, the Connecticut minimum wage climbed to $9.15/hour. Connecticut Voices for Children noted at the time that thousands of workers would be impacted by raising the minimum wage. There was a large group of workers who saw increased wages even though they already made above minimum wage, according to Connecticut Voices for Children.
In 2017, at the start of the 5-year gradual increase, the minimum wage was raised to $10.10/hour. Due to inflation over time, this minimum wage had the same value it did 50 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
When Connecticut raised the minimum wage to $12/hour in 2020, it was not a livable wage for a large part of the population. While the pay raise was beneficial, having a family made it difficult to keep up for some, especially single parents.
According to the Yale Daily News in 2020, an adult without children still needed an additional two dollars an hour for a livable wage, with a greater disparity for single parents at the time. While this higher minimum wage was helpful for many, it was seen as still far from being sufficient.
Today, with significantly higher costs for businesses and consumers, there is controversy on the minimum wage rising. Businesses are having to raise their prices to keep up with their increased costs. Employees, however, need a living wage, and many argue that even with the increase, it is still not nearly enough. With gas prices, rent, groceries, and almost everything else reaching significantly higher costs, there are families who are struggling to make ends meets.
Lamont, who signed the law to incrementally increase the minimum wage, explained that existing gaps in the cost of living and the wages workers receive have gotten worse as the economy has grown. He believes that the gradual increase in the minimum wage is not only fair, but necessary.
“For too long, while the nation’s economy grew, the income of the lowest-earning workers has stayed flat, making already existing pay disparities even worse and preventing hardworking families from obtaining financial security,” said Lamont this past June.
Many argue that the minimum wage is not enough, however. Alliance for a Just Society, a national center that builds organizations to fight for racial, social, and economic justice, issued a press release in 2015 stating that adults need a minimum of $19.03/hour in Connecticut just to cover basic needs. Seven years later, they still believe that $15/hour is not nearly enough for many to survive on.
The Economic Policy Institute showed in 2019 that if the minimum wage had increased along with the cost of living, it should be around $22/hour by this year.
For businesses, raising the minimum wage has advantages and disadvantages. There will likely be more people, especially teenagers, willing to work for a higher pay. Although this means that businesses must pay their workers more, which can be a challenge for business owners, especially for smaller companies.
NBC CT reported last month that the co-owner of Quassy Amusement Park, George Frantzis, sees raising the minimum wage as a stab in the heart to the business.
According to Frantzis, business costs are rising with inflation and the current state of the economy. Having to also raise the pay for the workers is an additional cost that may not be necessary.
“I’m all about finding a job where you can sustain a family. We all must live, right? But there are also those positions where it’s a first-time job,” said Frantzis.
Connecticut has one of the highest minimum wages in the country. With the federal minimum wage being $7.25/hour, many states have not increased above that by much. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009, over a decade ago.
While Massachusetts, New York City, and Washington are slightly ahead of Connecticut, there are still many states that are far behind.
However, groups like the Alliance for a Just Society and the Economic Policy Institute have studies and data to support that the increasing minimum wage not only combats racial, social, and economic issues, but improves the quality of life for many. They also report that it is still not a liveable wage for some residents of Connecticut.
While Connecticut has one of the highest minimum wages, the cost of living is much more than states with lower minimum wages.
Connecticut government leaders sought to help businesses by increasing the minimum wage gradually, but some business owners, like Frantzis, are also dealing with rising costs, making it challenging for businesses.
In a world of economic uncertainty, the new minimum wage strikes disagreement across the state. There continues to be differing opinions on what the minimum wage should be. Despite inflation, war, and high gas prices, the Connecticut minimum wage will continue to increase, and the controversy is likely to continue.
This article was reported and written by Sarah Klepack, an intern at CT by the Numbers from Trumbull and a rising junior at Endicott College pursuing studies in communication and digital journalism.
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