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Politics and Government

What will nonprofits do if minimum wage goes up to $15?

Supporters of raising the minimum wage at a recent rally in Solvay

One of the issues coming up in the discussion of raising New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour is the effect on nonprofits across the state.  

The Elmcrest Children’s Center has been taking care of central New York’s most damaged children since 1845 -- youngsters with developmental disabilities, and emotional and mental health issues. Executive director Joseph Geglia says its future could be in peril if it's forced to increase employees pay to $15 dollars an hour. He estimates it would add an extra $2 million to his budget a year.

“I can run a $2 million deficit once, but I sure can’t run it very long, without going out of business.”

Geglia says many of Elmcrest’s employees make less than $15 an hour, working in day care and other areas. The rate they offer an employee with a bachelor’s degree and experience is $15 per hour.  

Central New York Fight for 15 Coalition Chair Jerry Lotierzo admits the plight of nonprofits is a concern to supporters raising the minimum wage. And he says nonprofits would have to be monitored.

"That’s why we’re asking the governor and the government to look at that issue, and maybe give these people more grant money than they normally would get to make up for that $15 an hour wage.” 

But Geglia is skeptical. He says a statewide organization estimates the 107 agencies across the state like his, would need an extra $100 million a year. And he says the state hasn’t been particularly generous in the past with increases for these kinds of agencies.

“I don’t think there’s the ability or the will at the state level to accommodate raising nonprofit salaries to that $15 level,” said Geglia.

The issue of raising the minimum wage is under discussion as lawmakers and the governor’s office negotiate the state budget.