FREEPORT - Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed the $15 minimum wage plan reached as part of the state budget, capping years of protests by countless workers who demanded better pay.
But many small business owners on Long Island are worried about the impacts of the wage hike. Some say they'll be forced to raise prices to cover the higher overhead, while others are expressing fear that they might be forced to close altogether.
The higher wage would be phased in over a five-year period on Long Island. The minimum wage is set to increase to $10 at the end of 2016, and then increase $1 each year until it reaches $15 at the end of 2021.
Ilona Jagnow, owner of Otto's Sea Grill on Freeport's Nautical Mile, said she doesn't know how she's going to afford the new minimum wage. Many restaurants in the area only recently recovered from Superstorm Sandy, and now they’re faced with the costs of the new wages.
"We're not going to be able to survive with this," Jagnow said. "We're going to have to cut staffing, we're going to have to cut hours, we're going to have to tighten the belt, so tight that who knows if we're going to stay open."
The payroll manager at Otto's said if wages rise, they'll have to pass the costs onto customers.
The wage bill does provide a so-called "safety valve." In 2019, the state will look to see what effects the minimum wage has had on the economy and determine whether a temporary suspension of the increase is necessary.