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Hochul says governor's minimum wage task force will serve both workers and businesses

WBFO file photo

The minimum wage went up in New York State last weekend. Governor Cuomo has announced the launch of a task force that will ensure businesses are up to speed on changes. The state is also providing workers opportunities to learn what rate they are now required to earn, and report if they are not being paid the new minimum rate.

The governor's Minimum Wage Enforcement and Outreach Unit will utilize 200 people, working out of numerous state departments including Labor, Finance and Taxation, to help businesses understand their obligations.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, during a visit to Buffalo Tuesday, called it a proactive approach.

"We don't want any businesses to be penalized because they didn't know the minimum wage now goes from $9  to $9.70 in this part of the state," Hochul said. 

Workers will have both a website and a hotline available to inform them of their proper minimum wage and to report if they are now receiving the new rate. The hotline is 1-888-4-NYSDOL.

Legislation Governor Cuomo signed last year raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour, though gradually over the next several years. The increases also vary by parts of the states. In Western New York, for example, the minimum wage will rise 70 cents each year until it reaches $12.50 at the end of the year 2020. The increase to $15 per hour will then be scheduled by the state's Budget Director, who will consult with the Labor Department while setting the timeline.

Meanwhile in New York City, where the cost of living is higher, businesses that employ 11 or more people must now pay a minimum wage of $11 per hour. The $15-per-hour minimum wage for these businesses will begin at the end of 2018. Small businesses in New York City, as defined by the legislation, must pay a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour, with the $15-per-hour rate scheduled to begin at the end of 2019.

Critics of the minimum wage hike say it will hurt businesses by cutting into revenues that could, in turn, result in fewer jobs and price increases. Hochul defended the increases, saying that they've been debated thoroughly and that businesses have had time to prepare. She also noted that the varying rate increases were planned in recognition of different costs of living throughout the state.

Hochul says the gradual minimum wage increase will help New York's working poor emerge from poverty.

"It is a disgrace in our country that you can be working full time, earning the minimum wage, and still fall below the poverty line when you're trying to raise your family," Hochul said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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