Lack of hours hits minimum wage increase

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-02 10:26:18-05

Tens of thousands of San Diego's low wage workers got raises today, but boosting the minimum wage from $9 to $10 per hour won't do much against the region's high cost of living.

Nichanora Montenegro got a raise today, to the new minimum wage.

"Honestly, the $10 per hour minimum wage does not make an impact to home care workers like me," she said.

She said she'll hardly notice the increase. Nichanora's pay is getting bumped from $9.85 to $10 an hour. The incremental boost means she'll still struggle to pay her bills.

"I barely make it," she said. "I only earn about $250 per week."

But it's not only the hourly rate that affects how much Nichanora earns.

Even someone making the full jump from $9 to $10 an hour may not benefit from its full potential.The minimum wage increase could mean an extra $2,000 a year for someone who works full time. But very few minimum wage workers actually get full-time hours.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 2 percent of minimum wage workers actually work 40 hours a week. A full-time worker would get about $150 a month, something that may make an impact.

"Families that are struggling at the low end of the poverty line are having trouble getting say regular access to medications that they might need, or have difficulties in finding healthy foods," said Kyra Greene, analyst at the Center on Policy Initiatives.
But Nichanora works about 25 hours a week. Her 15 cent an hour raise means she'll pocket an extra $15 a month. 
"I am just blessed that my family owns this house," she said, "but I still have to pay utilities and the food."
And the costs for those continue to rise. 

A National University study says there are about 200,000 low-wage workers in San Diego County. City of San Diego voters will have their own say on the minimum wage in June. They'll decide whether to increase the city's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour