MACON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - Among the changes that 2020 has brought Illinois is a new minimum wage of $9.25 an hour, which is already making an impact on employers and employees.
Lexi Ross, a student at Millikin University, is one of many workers in the state seeing a bump in their paycheck. Ross works two jobs that pay minimum wage, so her hourly pay went from $8.25 to $9.25. She said prior to the increase, she didn't make enough to pay for basic necessities.
"With minimum wage going up, I'll actually have a chance to somewhat be on time with electric bills now and not have to struggle to make ends meet," Ross said. "$8.25 isn't a livable wage for literally anybody in the state of Illinois ... I've had to take out loans just to make sure that they don't turn off my electric."
The state minimum wage will increase several times over the next five years, eventually becoming $15 an hour in 2025. While Ross is appreciative of that trajectory, she acknowledges there could be a downside.
"I'm scared to see it go all the way to $15," Ross said. "Just because I know prices are gonna start going up too, just because they're gonna see that everyone's making more money. So that means that they have more money to spend."
Her concerns might be warranted. According to the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, 70 percent of central Illinois business owners surveyed said they would consider raising prices to cover their now higher costs. Over 60 percent will potentially reduce their employees' hours, and roughly half said they may lay off employees. Another 17 percent said they may close their business entirely.
Shelley Phillips, who owns Ruff-Inn-It, a pet boarding facility in Mount Zion, said she's had to raise prices as a result of the minimum wage increase.
"We just increased our boarding to $2 a night and increased day camp to $1 a night," Phillips said.
Phillips said while some businesses can respond to wage increases with automation, a business like hers can't.
"We are very labor-intensive," Phillips said. "Any given weekend, we may have 110 dogs boarded here, so that's a lot of employees."
Phillips said she supports the minimum wage increase and hopes her customers don't mind paying a little extra. She hopes they understand why they're doing so.
"The wage going up means we gotta cut costs somewhere," Phillips said. "And you hate to pass it to the consumer, but sometimes there's just no way around it."
Also beginning in 2020 is a Minimum Wage Credit designed to help small businesses offset the state's minimum wage increases. Businesses and nonprofits with 50 full-time equivalent employees or less are eligible. The maximum credit amount allowed is 25 percent of the difference between the new minimum wage and what each employee was paid previously.
Eligible businesses can claim this credit by filing Form IL-941, an Illinois Withholding Income Tax Return, and a new schedule.

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