Nonprofits’ minimum wage bind

By Jennifer Jones Austin, commentary, Times Union |

Across the nation there is mounting concern about economic inequity. At the heart of the matter of the ever-increasing economic divide are stagnant wages, which have plagued millions of low- and middle-income Americans for decades. But here in New York state we have a real opportunity to do something about this.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a $15 minimum wage to be phased in over the next two years for New York City residents and by 2021 for all other New Yorkers. His proposed legislation, the first of its kind put forth by the governor of any state, has the very real potential to increase the financial stability and improve the upward mobility of 3 million New Yorkers. The governor has evidenced his commitment to the minimum wage increase by using his own authority to raise the wages of both state and SUNY employees, but he has not yet moved to include those workers who provide vital human services for the state.

Human services and Medicaid-funded workers employed by nonprofits funded by state government contracts and Medicaid reimbursements deliver mandated services including child welfare, childcare, senior services and supports for the disabled. These workers perform critical roles in our economy and in the communities they serve. However, more than 50 percent of them, more than 400,000, earn less than $15 an hour.

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