By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) — Colorado’s minimum wage increased to $12 with the start of the new year — it’s the last in a series of increases voters approved in 2016. A new law however allows cities to decide for themselves if that minimum should be higher in their area. Denver is the first to set a minimum wage above the state standard, raising it to $12.85 in 2020, $14.77 in 2021 and $15.87 the following year.

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Marilyn Sorensen is a personal care provider in Denver making the minimum wage. She says the low wages offered in her industry paired with the cost of living in Denver makes it difficult to get to by.

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“You have no extra you have to really rob Peter to pay Paul to make it,” she said.

Sorensen is among the nearly 90,000 people living and working in Denver who will be impacted by the increase. It’s a change Sorenson credits to the work of local unions who led rallies across the city to get the discussion started.

“We started organizing through SEIU 105 and in that process I realized there are other people that share the same feelings as I [do],” she said.

City of Denver officials say they will start enforcing the minimum wage law immediately. The process begins with workers filing formal complaints followed by a Denver labor investigation. If an employer is not following the law they could end up paying up $50 for each day a worker is paid less than minimum wage.

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For Sorensen, it’s a bump in pay that will make a big difference.

“It will give me enough to sock it away in case of an emergency — the car, a hot water heater, things happen unexpectedly. I will make a little bit of money to put away and not worry about it,” she said.

In a statement, Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien whose office oversees the Denver labor department said: “I want the people of Denver to be paid according to the law, and I want businesses to find that it’s easier to follow the rules than break them.”

Both employers and employees can reach out to Denver labor for help with the new law. You can read more about how the new minimum wage works by clicking this link.

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Karen Morfitt