DENVER — Minimum wage is now $14.77 an hour in the city and county of Denver.
The roughly $2 increase went into effect on Friday, Jan. 1.
City and County Auditor Tim O'Brien expected the pay hike to impact thousands of workers, many of whom are frontline employees.
“This wave of relief came over me,” said Ari Harms, a sales associate at The Wizard's Chest, when they heard the news. "It's just being able to breathe a little easier knowing I can afford emergencies or a trip or take time off work because I need a break."
The Colorado Restaurant Association told 9NEWS that the pay increase is anything but a break. CEO Sonia Riggs said the group surveyed restaurant owners about the pay increase and they fear, in combination with the pandemic, that it could be detrimental
"This could be the nail in the coffin," she stated. "Eighty-five percent of [restaurant owners] said that they will increase their prices, 79% will reduce staff levels.”
Despite pleas from restaurant owners, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock decided last month not to ask the City Council to consider changing the scheduled minimum wage increase. In a joint statement, Councilwoman Robin Kniech and Hancock stated:
“While recognizing the challenges to businesses throughout the COVID pandemic, as co-sponsors of the minimum wage increase adopted by City Council in 2019, Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech intend to keep the planned minimum wage increase in place and will not advance a council action to delay. This was not an easy decision, but as our economy recovers – and we know it will – we don’t want to leave behind our minimum wage workers, who are often frontline workers in the pandemic and disproportionately women and people of color. Putting additional dollars into the hands of workers also provides an economic stimulus by increasing their ability to spend.
The city has and will continue to support small, local businesses with financial relief, creative patio expansion programs, and other assistance to help them stay in business, and we're encouraged by efforts to expand relief at the state level as well. But as we have emphasized before, only federal relief can meet the full scale of the economic challenges faced by businesses and working families in Denver and across our nation.”
The City Council approved the minimum wage increase in 2019. It is slated to increase again in 2022 to $15.87 an hour. The state’s minimum wage also increased on Friday to $12.32 an hour.
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