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How a rising minimum wage may impact the nonprofit sector

Published on March 2, 2016

How a rising minimum wage may impact the nonprofit sector - office cubicles

As the income inequality discussion continues to simmer across the country, municipal minimum wage ordinances have become hot topics of conversation in many cities. In January 2016, Seattle will implement its second step-up in the local minimum wage in 9 months, reaching $13 for many employers in the city and edging closer to a $15 an hour minimum that will apply to most firms by 2019. San Francisco will reach a $15 an hour minimum by July 2018. Yet cities as diverse as Birmingham, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Louisville have enacted or proposed similar minimum wage laws. It is too early to discern true impact of these local wage ordinances, but speculation abounds regarding whether or how the higher wage will affect firms and the earnings of low-wage workers.

Less prominent in debate and discussion about the minimum wage is the potential impact that higher minimum wage rates may have for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits perform many critical functions in our communities—often serving the most at-risk and disadvantaged. Yet, fiscal constraints often place a low ceiling on what many nonprofits can pay frontline staff. As a result, many different types of nonprofit organizations—child care centers, home health care organizations, senior care providers—pay staff at rates near or below the targets set by the recent crop of local minimum wage laws. Our popular image of a minimum wage worker is the teen-age cashier at a drive-through window or the sales clerk at a retail store in the local strip mall, but many workers in these “helping professions” are being paid low wages.

Read the rest of this piece by Urban@UW steering committee member Scott Allard, here on the Brookings Blog

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