AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Many people are having a hard time making ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, Aurora City Council member Alison Coombs says people making minimum wage in her city were struggling.
Minimum wage in Aurora is currently $12 an hour. Coombs says, with soaring housing costs, it’s impossible to make ends meet working a 40 hour week at that rate.
“A lot of folks are working two and three jobs and then what we also know from the data is that 29% of people in Aurora are paying more than 50% of their income for housing,” says Coombs.
That’s why Coombs is proposing to raise the minimum wage in Colorado’s third largest city. If approved by city council, the proposal would raise Aurora’s minimum wage by 5% to $12.60 at the start of 2021.
Minumum wage would continue to increase another 5% in 2022 and 10% each following year between 2023 and 2026. The final raise would be to $20 in 2027.
“All the people working in the city of Aurora need a higher wage in order to survive, which will improve public health outcomes and will also contribute to our local economy,” says Coombs.
Denver was the first Colorado city to pass a minimum wage increase, which requires phased-in increases up to $15.87 by 2022. Not all Aurora officials think the increase is a good idea.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman called the proposal a “job killer” on Twitter. Coffman said the proposal will hurt not only small businesses, but also the very people it intends to help.
— Mayor Mike Coffman (@AuroraMayorMike) August 19, 2020
Coombs says, in the cases she’s studied where cities raised the minimum wage, that theory doesn’t bear out.
“What studies actually show is that in years where there is a minimum wage increase, there is a slight business growth and in addition those job losses that are predicted they never materialize,” said Coombs.
The Aurora Chamber of Commerce and its members declined an interview but said they are in favor of a minimum wage increase, but added that right now is not the best time to enact one due to the state of the economy.