Getting a lift living on the bare minimum

By Matt Porter

December 27, 2013 Updated Dec 27, 2013 at 7:47 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When Mindy Goodwin went back to work to help supplement her husband's income, she wasn't asking much.

"I wasn't expecting to make a lot of money, but something to be able to help out with the house and the bills," Goodwin said.;

But on New Years Day, Goodwin and thousands of other New York workers will see their wages rise as the minimum wage increases to $8 an hour.

The change is part of a set of three increases over the next two years to bring New York's minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Goodwin said $8 will be better than her current hourly wage of $7.65.

But, she said after paying a babysitter and gas, even her increased annual income won't be enough to let her regularly shop at the grocery store.

"We go to Family Dollar or Dollar General," she said. "The dollar stores."

Eric Setzer, a store manager at Plato's Closet consignment shop, said most of his employees earn the minimum.

He doesn't see the hike as a burden.

"I wouldn't think of it as a negative, it always just forces us to be more efficient," Setzer said.

Setzer said the company does everything it can before cutting employee hours or numbers.

The last time the minimum was raised he said the company was able to retain its entire workforce at the same hours.

Setzer said putting a little more money in people's pockets could even benefit a business like his.

"When people have more money where they can go and spend," he said. "It stimulates the economy better."

The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce said raising the minimum may not be as beneficial.

Chairman Jim Lewis said for small businesses it could mean reduced hours for workers, and maybe fewer jobs for the unemployed.

"They're going to find ways to decrease employment or decrease hours for the same employees in order to compensate for it," Lewis said.

Not everyone will see their minimum wage go up.

Tip earning workers won't see any increase in their base pay because Governor Andrew Cuomo must call a minimum wage board in order to do so.

Fair wage advocate Mark Denlea, a spokesperson for the Hunger Action Network of New York State, said not raising the minimum for all wage earners is a failure.

He added that the current increase to $9 an hour by the end of 2015 will not be enough.

"The politicians tell us we're supposed to value work, but they refuse to put enough value on work so that a worker can support their family," Denlea said. "43 percent of the people and families that come to our soup kitchens have a job."

Goodwin understands, who said even with an extra $10 a week, she, her husband, and four children are one stumble away from financial collapse.

"We have no savings, nothing saved up right now, we just don't have the money to be able to do it," Goodwin said.

The minimum wage will increase again to $8.75 at the end of 2014, and $9 by the end of 2015.