Aurora to consider increasing minimum wage to $17

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Aurora City Council is considering a proposal to increase minimum wage to $17 per hour. 

The measure would increase Aurora’s minimum wage from $12 to $17 through smaller increases spread out over five years beginning in 2021 and ending in 2025. 

“It’s about people having what they need and not having to work three jobs, not having to scrape and struggle every month to get by,” Aurora City Council Member Alison Coombs told FOX31. 

Coombs is the driving force behind the proposal, which has already been voted down in Committee in September. She will now bring it directly to the full City Council for consideration on Nov. 2.

She says it will help 30,000 to 53,000 Aurora workers make ends meet. 

“Fifty percent of people in our city are cost-burdened with respect to housing, which means they pay more than 30 percent of their income and 29 percent pay more than 50 percent,” Coombs said. 

Mayor Mike Coffman has previously called wage hikes in Aurora a “job killer” and tweeted Tuesday calling this latest push “Dumb and Dumber.”

“As a former small business owner I understand that raising the minimum wage, without an increase in income from customers, will only lead to laying off the very workers that this proposal was intended to help,” Coffman said in a statement to FOX31. 

During the uncertainty and slowdown from the pandemic, he cautions that many of Aurora’s small businesses will not be able to survive. 

“The only option for many — who are already struggling and deciding whether its worth trying to stay open — will be to close,” Coffman said. 

“It absolutely kills us any time we have to spend more money,” owner of Launch Pad Brewery David Levesque told FOX31. 

Levesque, a former nuclear weapons missile maintainer, opened the brewery in 2015 to bring a watering hole to the neighborhood. 

When COVID hit, he was forced to make tough business decisions to stay afloat. 

“We converted all of our workers over to salary,” Levesque said. 

By ditching the hourly method, he says the brewery can plan ahead better because it has more fixed costs. According to Levesque, this approach to payroll will help the brewery survive in the event minimum wage increases too. 

“We run on a very thin margin base and we have employees we want to make sure are safe,” he said. 

Still, he says he too would have to raise wages to remain competitive. That cost will trickle down to the consumer. For example, Launch Pad’s $6 pints may cost $8 by the time minimum wage hits $17.

“Some of the customers might be making more but they’re paying more for the goods that they’re trying to receive, so it’s balancing for them,” Levesque said. 

Coffman argues that while COVID-19 is still a threat, now is not the time to add additional stress on small business. To that, Coombs says Aurora needs to help the working class first. 

“Our workers are also struggling through this pandemic and I think it’s really important that we not make them bear the brunt of the pandemic,” she said. 

Coffman says he is working on a program to help low wage workers in Aurora access and receive support from programs they are eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Colorado Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and other housing and childcare assistance programs. 

“I’m concerned that the utilization of these programs is now what it ought to be and government could be doing more to reach out to low-wage workers at their worksites and helping them get through the bureaucratic application process,” Coffman said. 

If City Council approves the measure, minimum wage would increase to $12.60 on Jan. 1, 2021. 

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