DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers gathered Monday to call on a change in state law allowing cities and counties across Colorado to set their own minimum wage based on the needs of their communities. This is the latest in the trend to raise the minimum wage but this focuses on the needs of specific areas.

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“I have to monitor every move that I make, to make sure that I have money to get to clients, provide the care, the needs of my home,” said Marilyn Sorensen, a home healthcare worker. “I work seven days a week and I am still not making it.”

Marilyn Sorensen (credit: CBS)

Sorensen spoke at the state Capitol about the challenge she faces and those in her industry. Unable to live off their wages, she lives in Denver where the cost of living is one of the highest in the state. The cost of rent in the state has increased six times faster than wages from 2012 to 2016, according to the Colorado People’s Alliance. The organization says a single parent with a child in preschool needs to earn $31.22 / hour to live independently, without assistance.

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“Our state is so diverse that what works for Denver doesn’t necessarily work for Greeley or Trinidad,” said Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Democrat representing Weld County.

Rochelle Galindo (credit: CBS)

Businesses also say it is important for a chance to the 1999 law so that they can remain competitive with larger companies that can pay the same lower wage to all of their employees across the state.

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“It’s about local control and it created an even playing field. Where we are not just racing to the bottom,” said Adam Alleman, the owner of the The Game Lounge restaurant in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. “The more that people are paid, the more spending money they have, the more they’re going to frequent my restaurant.”

Adam Alleman (credit: CBS)

He just took over the restaurant less than a year ago, he says he tries to pay his workers a fair wage to keep up with the cost of living in Denver. As a business, he loses out on money he could put toward advertising to keep wages up for his workers.

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“A restaurant is a long game, we’re not getting rich overnight in the restaurant business,” said Alleman.

Sorensen says it has a long-term impact on her earnings and the industry as a whole. She says the needs of patients suffer when there are not enough people working in her field.

The Colorado state Capitol (credit: CBS)

“I’ve been a care provider for almost 25 years and from the time I started, I barely make a dollar and a half more,” she said. “It’s hard for people to be able to afford the job so we don’t have enough people to be care providers.”

Shawn Chitnis

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