Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a minimum wage increase into law this week that will bring low-wage workers across Illinois boost to $15 per hour by 2025. The hike represents nearly an 82% increase from today's minimum wage of $8.25.
"Fifteen dollars an hour will be life-changing for me. I can barely afford the basic needs for my two sons on my minimum-wage salary. Simple things like whether to buy school supplies for my older boy or formula and diapers for my little one become agonizing choices."
She's not alone. A Federal Reserve Study recently found that nearly half of all Americans would be challenged to come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense, and would likely need to borrow or sell something to afford it. The findings echo a survey by CareerBuilder, which reported that 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
As the President of the Board of a nonprofit organization that helps connect Chicago’s most vulnerable with the resources they need to achieve a better quality of life, I’ve seen firsthand the troubles that can happen when a worker hasn’t saved the minimum six months worth of living expenses that most experts recommend having in an emergency fund. Out on that tightrope, a sudden crisis can force individuals to choose between making a rent or mortgage payment, or paying a medical bill or critical prescription, and suddenly things have spiraled out of control.
The move in Illinois' minimum wage will hopefully help our lowest-paid workers, easing their ability to deal with the surprises that life throws everyone's way. Bankrate Analyst Jill Cornfield observes that “it’s not a matter of if, but when an unexpected expense will pop up. If you have a car, a house or apartment, a pet, or a kid - I’ve you’re a member of the human race – something that costs money is bound to go wrong."
Of courrse, the full increase will take nearly six years to take effect, and my work at Care For Friends will bring over 12,500 contacts each year with Chicagoans who have already slipped up in the delicate financial balance low wages require of them.
That's why this Friday, I’ll be joining Care For Friends in a Sleepout for Homelessness along with 48 folks who will be spending a winter night outdoors. The event raises money and awareness for the organization's work in providing access to affordable housing, sober mental and physical healthcare, and job skills to those in need - putting their ability to live self-sustaining lives back on track.