Heartland minimum wage workers get raise, small businesses struggle to keep up

Updated: Jan. 2, 2020 at 10:54 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - This week both Missouri and Illinois increased their state minimum wage to more than $9 an hour.

It means a bigger paycheck for some workers, but it’s also placing an extra burden on small businesses.

Stacy Busch-Heisserer is the co-owner Deer Creek Doggie Day Camp in Cape Girardeau.

Now that Missouri’s minimum wage is at $9.45 an hour, she said it will have a ripple effect through her workforce.

“We now pay our aides five cents less than what I pay my counselors to start,” Busch-Heisserer said. “So I’m going to not only have to adjust four employees as aides, I’m going to have to adjust my counselors as well. And then I’ll have to revaluate and look at where my assistant managers and my managers fall into place too.”

Ellie Mueller works at the doggie day care as an aide which is the entry level position.

She took some college classes but did not finish, and said it’s hard to find full-time employment that pays well without a degree.

“My last job I was bringing in maybe 100 dollars a week," Mueller said. “Then coming here I got my first paycheck and my eyes got wide like ‘Wow! Ok, I could do this.’”

This week Mueller got an 85 cent raise, which is part of a rolling minimum wage increase Missouri voters approved in 2018 that will eventually reach $12 an hour in 2023.

“Everybody realized there is a need and that they want to do something to help,” Mueller said. “I’m just glad they care because people are struggling. I had a friend who worked five jobs to make ends meet because her husband was off on military basics.”

Mueller said the bump in pay will make a big difference in her life because she missed work for a month after having a surgery.

“I’m very low on funds right now," Mueller said. "I think my husband is beginning to get tired of bologna sandwiches and microwave meals. Our dating anniversary is coming up. Maybe we could go out to eat for that and have a really nice dinner that we would normally would not be able to have.”

Busch-Heisserer supports improving her employees quality of life outside of work, but said the new law is taking a toll every time wages go up.

“It hurt a little bit last year," Busch-Heisserer said. "It’s going to hurt a little bit this year but we’ll get through it I hope, and we’ll continue to get through it we’ll have to.”

Busch-Heisserer had to increase her rates back in April and said more adjustments are likely on the horizon to make the business work.

“We probably do need to look at things and decide if those things need to go up again maybe in April of this year," Busch-Heisserer said. "Or do we need to reevaluate our services, or do we need to start offering more things. I definitely don’t want to cut back on the number of employees I have, but that is always a possibility.”

A dollar was also added to Illinois’ minimum wage this week which is now at $9.25 an hour.

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