• Report: $15 minimum wage could force Seattle nonprofits to cut services to the poor

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    SEATTLE, Wash. - A new report warns that if Seattle nonprofits are forced to pay workers more to comply with a $15 per hour minimum wage, they would have to cut services to the poor.

    The preliminary findings of a Seattle Human Services Coalition survey show that 21 of 29 organizations surveyed by the group would have to cut services if they were not given additional revenue to cover the extra payroll cost.

    The impacts include cutting shelter beds, Head Start programs, food bank hours and senior lunches.

    One group said it would have to stop housing people with significant disabilities.

    Another said it would have to cut breast feeding and peer counseling services to low-income new mothers.

    The Coalition, which supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, surveyed a number of organizations, including well-known groups such as Salvation Army, Compass Housing Alliance, Downtown Emergency Services Center and El Centro De La Raza.

    Most of the potential impacts were not attributed to specific organizations.

    An exception were comments by Johnny Otto of the Child Care Directors Association of Greater Seattle.

    According to the report, Otto wrote that child care centers would be unable to cut staff and still stay in legal ratios for children and providers.

    "Estimates show that 50 pecent of all child care centers in the city would simply be unable to keep their doors open, the vast majority of these would be centers that serve low income communities," Otto wrote. "It would be a catastrophe."

    Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is leading the charge for $15 per hour, said the solution is to tax big businesses to help small businesses and nonprofits meet larger payroll demands.

    "There are no unintended consequences while fighting for $15 an hour while making sure small nonprofits and small businesses are able to survive," Sawant said.

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