Local workers say minimum wage is becoming a livable wage in Yakima County

Local workers say minimum wage is becoming a livable wage in Yakima County

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - Workers across Washington making minimum wage saw a 50 cent increase again this year and will see a $1.50 increase next year.

"I think it's helping," said local worker Maria Campos-Barajas. "There is some pros and cons but I think it's helping."

Campos-Barajas is a local warehouse worker and said she is happy with the minimum wage increase because she is bringing home more money to help support her family.

Her husband is a construction worker and her income helps them take care of their five children.

"The increase is a lot of help because right now the cost of living has gone sky high," Campos-Barajas said. "A lot of us can't afford it, we have to limit ourselves like food on the table."

She said with five kids to feed money is tight and her family really can't take on any extra expenses.

Campos-Barajas said her rent already went up $100 and in the winter her power bill increases a couple hundred bucks too.

"We're living off of it but once it comes to winter time, that's our hardship," she said.

If someone is making minimum wage, working full-time at 40 hours a week, their total salary for the year after taxes comes out to around $21,000.

Now add in monthly costs like rent, transportation, groceries, power, cable and phone. In Yakima County on average, those bills for one year can range from $16,500 and on the high end $38,000.

According to these numbers, someone only supporting themselves could get by on minimum wage, but it may not be enough to support a family.

Campos-Barajas said with the wage increase she is seeing her boss cutting back on employees.

"They're cutting hours, there is no more overtime," she said. "They are adding more machinery, more robots instead of having more people there."

Yakima County Development Association Executive Director Jonathan Smith said the pay increase could cause businesses to want to hire more qualified workers at the minimum wage level.

"Instead of hiring someone for an entry level job, with entry level skills, you're going to be looking for somebody more mature in the workforce," Smith said.

He said this could make the job market more competitive for high school students and those fresh out of college, just entering the workforce, with not a lot of experience.

Smith said it will be interesting to see how the workforce evolves here in Yakima County as the minimum wage climbs to $13.50 in 2020.

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