The city of Half Moon Bay will implement a new $15 per hour minimum wage beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Whether that will improve life for low-wage workers in the city or prevent their employers from keeping them depends on whom you ask.

On Sept. 15, the City Council unanimously agreed that the city should not delay implementation of its minimum wage ordinance, despite calls by the business community to allow more time for them to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

The council had already approved the minimum wage hike in February with a scheduled implementation in the new year. But the council revisited the issue with the possibility of postponing implementation until 2022.

An initial proposal, made in December 2019, planned to raise the minimum wage from $13 to $15 beginning on July 1, 2020. Then officials hoped that a Jan. 1, 2021, implementation would give businesses time to prepare for the budgetary impacts.

But last week some businesses — including the city’s usually flourishing restaurant industry — were asking for additional time to recover.

Krystlyn Giedt, president and CEO of the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau, said that before the pandemic a handful of businesses worried about their ability to keep employees if forced to pay higher wages. Under the pandemic, many more businesses opposed the ordinance as they struggled to return to adequate staffing levels.

“A $2 minimum wage increase really hampers their ability to bring back 10 to 15 people,” Giedt said of businesses. “It might bring it down to nine to 12 people that they’re able to bring back.”

Giedt said that those who can pay above the current $13 minimum wage are doing so, and some are paying upwards of $30 an hour. But she described the situation as a tipped scale.

“For those who can’t pay the minimum wage, this could lead to them being severely unable to bring that staff back or force them to close their doors,” she said.

Mayor Adam Eisen sympathized with local businesses but joined the other council members in voting for the hike.

“I still think it’s the right direction,” Eisen said about raisinging the minimum wage.

Half Moon Bay joins nine other cities in San Mateo County that decided to proceed with a wage increase in 2021, despite considering delays because of the pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also opted to continue with the state-mandated minimum wage increase as scheduled.

San Carlos and Hayward are the only two Bay Area cities that have decided to delay increasing their minimum wage until January 2022.

Other residents who spoke in favor of passing the minimum wage ordinance without an extension believed that a higher minimum wage would benefit businesses.

“When people earn more, people spend more,” said

Eric DeBode, executive director of Abundant Grace Coastside Worker, a local nonprofit. He emphasized that he was speaking as a citizen before Tuesday’s vote. “It’s a sign of economic health when money circulates. It benefits workers, consumers, businesses, and the cities.” r

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