Delaware State News: Business owners, leaders expect payoff with wage increase

By Olivia Montes
Delaware State News, July 12, 2021

Upon hearing that state lawmakers had passed an increase to the minimum wage June 17, Ryan Peters, co-owner of RISE Fitness+Adventure in Rehoboth Beach, was delighted.

At the same time, local business leaders are thrilled that more money is moving into the wallets of employees and hoping they spend big at area companies, bolstering bonds between shops and consumers.

Mr. Peters — whose gym has been paying its staff above minimum wage... [said]

“Ultimately, these people need more discretionary income, … (and they) don’t necessarily need to work three or four jobs just to make ends meet and put food on the table,” he said. “(This bill) gives people the ability to earn a living and keep that money within the community … without worrying about if they’re going to be able to make their car payment or rent.”

After hours of deliberation, SB 15 with Senate Amendment 1 officially passed, with 26 for and 15 against.

With the addition of SA 1, which will raise the current minimum wage of $9.25 per hour to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2022, SB 15, originally introduced in March, aims to steadily increase the current minimum wage to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2025, thereby strengthening consumer spending, providing a boost to the statewide economy and shifting toward a more responsive workplace culture.

The additional nine House amendments, which include allowing small businesses to pay employees 85% of the minimum-wage rate ... were either stricken or defeated.

However, as Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, explains, those amendments, if they had passed, would have done more harm than good. ...

“Keeping the minimum wage low makes it harder for small businesses to compete with big businesses,” she said. “In order for small businesses to thrive in competition with their bigger counterparts, you need employees willing to stay long enough to learn your business, … and it’s hard to get there if your employees would rather be working and doing the same job at someplace else for more money.”

Ms. Barron-Menza added that keeping both big and small businesses on the same “universal timeline” increases morale and productivity among workers. With the exclusion of those amendments, the bill will help both large and local markets compete on a level playing field and provide for employees and customers alike.

For Ravi Goel, managing partner of Even & Odd Minds, a consulting firm in Wilmington, the passage of this bill not only helps expand his business but also aids the surrounding community.

“Most of the people who are on the lower side of the wages to $70,000 (a year) … are spending and putting the money back, … (and) this increase will be good for people, as well as the economy,” he said. “This (bill) will be a step in the right direction towards having a better quality of living in Delaware.” ...

This raise, Ms. Barron-Menza explained, not only puts money in the pockets of employees to pay for basic needs but also in the hands of consumers, who will then spend that same money at local businesses, thus strengthening the business-consumer relationship. ...

As the bill awaits Gov. Carney’s signature, many businesses await the new wage — which will, as Kristen Deptula, owner of Canalside Inn in Rehoboth Beach, added, help guarantee that workers nationwide receive the wages they need.

“We are very excited, and we are hoping that other small businesses will be excited with us,” said Ms. Deptula, who has been paying her employees $15 per hour since October 2019.

“I hope federally that we can embrace the wage for every state, … so it’s not just a state here and state there, because I think everyone, through this and last year, can use a win like this.”

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