Half Million Workers Age 55+ Would Benefit from $15 Minimum Wage

In its New York State Economic and Fiscal Outlook, 2016-17, the Fiscal Policy Institute discussed a number of key economic issues including the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021.  Among the key findings in the report is that 497,906 workers who are 55 or older would benefit from the increase.    This number represents 28.6% of the estimated 1,746,198 persons in the age group who are working.  Another 795,543 in the 40 to 54 age group wold benefit, which is 28.1% of that age group.  Among all age groups 3,162,345 would benefit or about 36.6% of 8,635,791 workers in the state. The report says that 53% of those who would benefit are women.  Over 75% of all workers in or near poverty would see a raise.

The report says 48.4% of workers in “home based and residential care, social assistance and child care” would see raises.  This equals an estimated 419,888 workers which is the third highest sector of workers.  The top industries effected would be retail trade and restaurants at 555,196 and 427,268 workers respectively.  Governor Cuomo has not included added funds in his state budget proposal for health care and human service agencies to make up for the phased in increase in the minimum wage and those agencies are lobbying the Legislature vigorously to get some further state aid to cover costs.

The report notes that while some state and local workers will get higher wages and that will increase state costs, those costs are partially offset by 43%.  The savings comes from higher income tax collections which would occur with higher wages plus the offset of social services costs for low wage workers falling below income thresholds for public assistance benefits. $2.9 billion of the $9.1 billion in public assistance expenditures to low wage workers in the state would be saved.

Governor Cuomo and others have argued in support of the increase, noting that the state is subsidizing workers of large companies like McDonalds and Walmart whose workers are paid so low they qualify for public assistance.