Yakima County seeing impacts from statewide minimum wage increase

Yakima County seeing impacts from statewide minimum wage increase

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - Workers in Washington are making more than neighboring states, at least at the minimum wage level, which is benefiting some but hurting others.

In 2016, voters passed an initiative to increase the wage. Now in 2019, minimum wage workers earn $12 and an hour here in Yakima County and that's jumping another $1.50 next year.

"You could say things are fine and that Washington is growing like gangbusters, so obviously we can just continue to raise the minimum wage," said Yakima County Development Association Executive Director Jonathan Smith. "However that's at the macro level when you look down we can definitely see that there are some losers because of the minimum wage going up."

Smith said those losers could be small businesses.

Local Baskin-Robbins owner Dawn Charboneau said her company is taking a hit.

"Well of course it affects the business," Charboneau said. "We really try not to raise prices on customers, we just hope we'll get more of them to compensate that increase."

However, most employees see this as a positive because they are making more money.

Local worker Maria Campos-Barajas said the pay raise helps offset her climbing expenses.

"The increase is a lot of help because right now the cost of living is going way sky high and a lot of us can't afford it," Campos-Barajas said. "We have to limit ourselves of things like bringing food on the table."

Workers may be seeing more money on their paychecks which could mean more money left over after paying bills, but Smith said that could soon change if prices on everyday essentials rise with the minimum wage.

"So the cost of living will increase a little bit as well," he said. "People will have to raise prices for goods and services to compensate for the increase in the cost to their business."

Smith said Yakima County's cost of living has already increased since the minimum wage started rising, bringing the county just under the national average cost of living.

Washington State now has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation.

Compared to neighboring states, Washington's minimum wage is much higher. Idaho is at the federal minimum wage at $7.25 and Oregon at $10.75.

Smith said that difference could drive people to want to work in Washington for the higher pay, but also drive smaller businesses out of state where the cost for owners would be less.

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