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Some worry Illinois businesses will suffer ahead of minimum wage increase

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WREX) — Illinois' minimum wage will bump up to $10 on Wednesday. The move brings employees one step closer to the state's checkpoint of $15 by 2025.

However, some aren't happy the state is moving forward with the increase during the current pandemic. The $15 minimum wage plan was the first bill Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in 2019. Workers saw the first increase to $9.25 per hour on January 1, 2020. The momentum isn't slowing down due to COVID-19, as workers can expect an extra 75 cents an hour next month.

Minimum wage workers will make $10 while tipped employees will get at least $6 per hour. Teen workers will see a boost to an $8 minimum wage. Some business owners are concerned they won't be able to pay everyone and may have to cut down on staff.

Republican lawmakers hoped Pritzker would pause the payment ramp during the pandemic to lessen the bleed for businesses. However, the state's Department of Labor is moving forward as planned.

"I'm worried that a lot of our downstate communities and a lot of our smaller communities are just going to suffer more," said Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). "In fact, the very people that are trying to help with a minimum wage increase are going to have less job opportunities as a result of this."

Barickman adds this may be "the nail in the coffin" for many small businesses downstate. He's hoping lawmakers will be able to discuss the minimum wage schedule during veto session this fall.

"We'll see some businesses moving out of Illinois or at least growing outside of Illinois," Barickman explained. "Those are going to be more of your middle and large-sized businesses that have an ability to have those choices in front of them."

Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik notes business owners have already received assistance.

"Since the start of the pandemic, the [Pritzker] administration has worked to support businesses through millions of dollars in grants and we look forward to continuing to build an economy that works for all." Kleinik says small businesses will benefit from tax credits through the same minimum wage legislation.

The department expects business owners to abide by the minimum wage law, but Kleinik wants workers to look closely at their checks to make sure their increase is included.

The minimum wage will increase to $11 on January 1.