by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
CARSON CITY — As Nevadans struggle to afford rising costs and skyrocketing rents, minimum wage workers will receive a slight bump in their pay.
Beginning July 1, the state’s minimum wage increases to $10.50, up from $9.75, for workers not offered health coverage. Employees offered health care will now make $9.50, up from $8.75.
Nevada’s wage increase is lower than other places scheduled to see a boost to wages July 1, according to the national organization Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
In Connecticut, the wage will increase to $14 an hour and will reach $15 in 2023. The wage will continue to be adjusted based on the Employment Cost Index beginning in 2024.
In Washington D.C. the wage will go from $15.20 to $16.10 per hour.
And in Oregon the wage will rise by varying amounts in different parts of the state, ranging from a new wage of $12.50 in non-urban counties to $14.75 in the Portland metro area.
In a statement released by Business for a Fair Minimum Wage ahead of the scheduled increase, Las Vegas business co-owner Paul Saginaw said “fair wages are good business” and called for the state to “go higher than the scheduled $12 by 2024 minimum wage.”
“All our employees earn at least $14 an hour before tips, plus benefits like health insurance and paid time off,” he said. “We have not had trouble hiring and have strong employee retention, which shows in the quality of our food and our customer service. Great food and great service keep customers coming back. Nevada’s minimum wage increase will support workers and businesses.”
Nevada lawmakers approved legislation during the 2019 session to gradually increase the minimum wage by 75-cent increments until it reaches $12 in 2024, or $11 if an employer offers health insurance.
For years, lawmakers were pushed by organizers to consider raising the wage to $15 an hour. However, $12 was deemed “palatable” and a compromise for business groups.
The modest increase to $10.50 and $9.50 – $20,475 and $18,525 a year respectively – comes as rent costs have increased more than 20% statewide in the last two years.
Current rental market trends estimate the average cost of a studio apartment in Las Vegas costs $875, a 15% increase from the previous year.
A fact sheet put out by Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute at UNLV in June showed that “7 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to afford rent for a studio apartment” while in Reno “6 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to afford rent for a studio apartment.”
The most common occupation in the Las Vegas area, according to the report, is a retail salesperson, a job held by 28,590 workers that comes with median annual wages of $25,570 a year.
But the findings noted that individual renters in the Las Vegas area need to earn at least $33,920 a year to afford a studio apartment.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people earning $9.75 would have to work 73 hours a week to afford a modest one bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rate. The report hasn’t been updated to reflect the recent wage increase.
National efforts to increase the minimum wage have failed. President Joe Biden supported a $15 wage, which was initially included in the American Rescue Plan.
The legislation, which was opposed by all Republicans, needed to go through a Senate maneuver called reconciliation to avoid a filibuster, but also relied on unanimous Democratic support in order to pass.
The minimum wage provision was stripped out for the legislation after failing to get support from Democratic U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona.
Nevada voters will have a chance to get rid of the tiered minimum wage system in the upcoming election.
Lawmakers introduced a resolution in 2019 proposing a constitutional amendment to restructure the minimum wage to ensure workers earn the same amount regardless of health benefits.
It passed during the 2019 and 2021 Legislative sessions on a party line vote and will head to the ballot this year.
If the measure passes, $12 would be the set minimum wage in 2024 regardless of health care coverage offered by employers.
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