Minimum wage hike hurts small businesses, reduces job openings


MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. (WEHT)– It’s been four months since the minimum wage in Illinois ticked up to $11 an hour. While this may sound like a nice change, it’s already having some negative effects.

“It’s kind of nerve wracking actually because it’s like you don’t want to— you love your employees, their part of the family so you want to treat them right and you want to have a job for them but then on the other hand you are trying to figure out how to make ends meet for the shop as well,” Rebecca Rutledge, owner of The Attic boutique, said it was tough enough to keep business going during the lockdown, but for the minimum wage to $11 an hour, they had an additional challenge on their hands.

“We don’t want to raise our prices on our clothes because we love our customers and we want them to be happy, but yet we are still playing catch up from being shut down,” explained Rutledge.

Mount Carmel Mayor Joe Judge says raising the minimum wage statewide has driven up living expenses.

“Our mom and pop shops here locally have seen a very large increase in their labor rates,” said Judge. “We’ve lost a grocery store within the last year and a couple restaurants and it makes it to where people drive over to Indiana to buy their groceries and while they are there they buy their gas and go out to eat.”

The city hasn’t be able to raise taxes, but Mayor Judge says they are shifting their manpower.

“We have had to preplan on budgets coming up in the near future for our swimming pool and our parks and recreation department along with other departments that have employees that are at minimum wage,” Mayor Judge said they are making room in future budgets for these employee’s raises since Illinois’ minimum wage will be raised to $15 an hour by 2025. He’s afraid this will drive up prices even more and motivate more people to spend their money out of town.

“What would be helpful is that they do a federal minimum wage adjustment to make everyone on a level playing ground,” explained Judge. He said raising the minimum wage in Illinois is going to make it tougher for local high school and college students to get a summer job since there are fewer positions available.

(This story was originally published on April 2, 2021)

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