Raising minimum wage across the Triad has ripple affect

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Greensboro is raising the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. They originally passed this plan in 2015, but they're speeding up their implementation plan to the next budget year instead of 2020.

Winston-Salem approved the same wage for their city workers as well. They hope to have everyone bumped up by 2021. Fifteen dollars an hour equals $31,200 for full-time employees. Other city employees pay should be adjusted as well. While this is a clear win for the workers getting a pay bump, it could also help workers across the community.

"From the city government perspective we're trying to give our workers a living wage. And secondly we want to set a good example for the community to hopefully raise their minimum wage as well," Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said.

Joines says he hopes this move will have a ripple affect in the community. He hopes more private businesses will follow suit and they will raise the wage for more people across the board.

"Hopefully it will help us start to address our poverty rates, we've got a very strong poverty rate here in the city," the mayor said.

Catherine Walton-Ward, with Working America, has been pushing for the bump in pay for years. She says they've done research shows $15 an hour is the magic number for someone to meet basic needs.

"A lot of research that shows for one adult and one child to survive both in Guilford County and also Forsyth County they need to be making $14.86," she said.

That's for things like a home, getting around town and groceries. Those are the basics that haven't really been possible for a lot of families.

"It's really sobering, a lot of the people we talk to work two jobs and that's just what they have to do to survive," she said.

It's not just the employees getting a boost that should be excited about the raise.

"When people are making more money, they tend to be spending more, so whether that's in small businesses or groceries, there's just going to be more money flowing," Walton-Ward said.

So it's a win for city workers, businesses across the area and hopefully workers all around.

"I think it's a big win for people working in the Triad region for sure," she said.

The mayor of Winston-Salem said over the three years, the cost of raising all of the wages for city employees will be about $6 million. The raises are funded in this year's budget without a pay raise. He said the city is planning to cover the rest of the increases by expanding the tax base in Winston-Salem. They have a number of projects in place that they hope will bring more people into the city.

In Greensboro, the budget is also covering the wage increase without increasing the tax rate.

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