Many businesses throughout New York were severely hurt by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo imposed lockdown measures designed to curtail the spread of infection. For companies deemed non-essential, this meant shutting down — and some firms never recovered. For other companies designated as essential, this meant restrictions on serving clients and adhering to safety protocols in the workplace.
On this page, we raised concerns early in the pandemic about how Mr. Cuomo was treating businesses in all regions of the state. Not every area was just like New York City, which experienced the worse problems at the start of the health care crisis. Forcing all other regions to follow the same rules didn’t make sense.
Mr. Cuomo eventually adopted a more flexible strategy for enforcing coronavirus regulations, and we approved of this new approach. Areas with better metrics were allowed more leeway as to how their businesses operated.
The overall effect on virtually all business, though, has been harsh. It’s been a dismal year for them. And their workers have been hit as a result, with many losing their jobs or having their hours cut.
If there was ever a year where New York officials should ease back on their nanny state demands of companies, it’s 2020. Their normal business-as-usual mindset of micromanaging companies didn’t work well in better times, and there’s no way it would do any good this year.
However, common sense is not often the modus operandi of state officials when dealing with companies. They will exact their pound of flesh regardless of the consequences for small shops and large firms along with their employees.
While disappointing, it was not surprising to discover that increases in the state’s minimum wages will be carried out as planned. This will hurt companies at the end of a year they’d like to forget.
“On Wednesday, the state Department of Labor announced the planned increases to the minimum wage for workers in upstate New York, Long Island and Westchester County will be moving forward, despite calls to pause. In upstate New York, the minimum wage will increase by 70 cents on Dec. 31, from $11.80 per hour to $12.50. In Long Island and Westchester County, the minimum wage will increase by $1, from $13 per hour to $14 per hour. In New York City, employers with more than 10 employees had their minimum wage increased to $15 by the end of 2018, and those with fewer than 10 employees had it set to $15 at the end of 2019,” according to a story published Thursday by the Watertown Daily Times. “While Long Island and Westchester County are set to reach the $15 per hour mark by December 2021, increases for the rest of the state do not have set timeframes to achieve that mark. According to the Department of Labor, increases for upstate are decided based on an annual review of the increase’s impact on local economies.”
Several state legislators representing GLOW region counties called this month on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pause a scheduled increase in the state’s minimum wage slated to take effect Dec. 31.
In a joint letter signed by 12 Republican state senators, Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, who represents Orleans and Niagara counties, said small businesses are “hanging on by a thread” and in no position to shoulder increased payroll costs given the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Governor has the power to temporarily pause minimum wage increases and we urge him to do so until the end of the pandemic,” wrote Ortt. “We do not want our small businesses to make the difficult choice of laying off workers or closing their doors because this becomes the final straw during the financial fragility of the pandemic.”
State senators George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, both signed the letter. Together, the two senators represent all of Livingston County. Gallivan also represents all of Wyoming County and parts of Erie and Monroe counties.
The senators’ request was ignored.
We certainly recognize that most workers need to earn higher incomes to make ends meet. But if their companies cut staffs or close their doors, they’ll be directly hurt as a result. Numerous workers are now working remotely from home permanently due to the pandemic. This means more firms can move out of New York and relocate in states with fewer financial hurdles.
Companies require time to recover from this pandemic. Compelling them to raise wages now is a recipe for disaster.