In a Pandemic World, Can Illinois Afford Its Minimum Wage Law?

July 1, 2020 — The new minimum wage for Illinois as of July 1, is $14/hour in Chicago, $13/Hour in Cook County and $10/Hour across the rest of the state. The minimum wage in Illinois will increase again on January 1, 2021. Increasing the minimum wage was the first major legislation passed under Gov Pritzker in January 2019.

But no one imagined the America we now live in with many businesses operating at 50% of capacity if they’re operating at all. And a law passed 18 months ago to help low-income workers, may now result in business closures and layoffs of the very low-wage workers the law was intended to help.

Here’s the schedule of increases planned within the law: $9.25 per hour – January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 $10.00 per hour
– July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 $11.00 per hour
– January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 $12.00 per hour
– January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022 $13.00 per hour
– January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023 $14.00 per hour
– January 1, 2024 through December 31, 2024 $15.00 per hour

The ability of business in Illinois to absorb the labor increases was always suspect, but seemed doable in light of the pickup in the national economy and with the Trump tax cuts passed by congress in December 2017. But as these wage increases now come, it’s in the wake of the pandemic that’s closed many businesses for months. Many bars and restaurants in the state are just now beginning to reopen their doors. In our interview, we speak with Rob Karr, President and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, to hear what impact this wage increase will have on businesses across the state.

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