Make that money!

By Laura Grandt

The 35-cent increase in minimum hourly wages doesn’t change the plans of local businesses or workers, but next year’s $1 increase may prompt adjustments.

As of Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Illinois increased from $5.15 to $5.50 an hour.

“I don’t really think 35 cents is going to do much, even at 40 hours a week,” said Jesse Hepperly, an employee at Jimmy John’s, 1011 W. Hillcrest Drive. “I don’t see it making a great impact on my life,” Hepperly added.

The 35 cent increase per hour probably will go to buy cigarettes and booze, Hepperly said.

For someone who works 40 hours, the increase is an extra $14 per week. That adds up to an additional $728 per year in the pockets of minimum-wage employees.

Matt Allison, a manager at Jimmy John’s, said he does not think the increase will affect the business that much. There are no plans to lay off employees or raise prices to make up for the difference, he said.

Most of Allison’s employees were excited about the increase before it took effect. Most of them knew about it before he did, Allison said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site, 7.2 percent of those making minimum wage or less nationally are between the ages of 16 and 24.

An additional increase to $6.50 for minimum-wage workers in Illinois, slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2005, may impact businesses more than the current increase.

The increase may lead to increasing prices, although nothing has been decided yet, Allison said.

Kenny Weinstock, owner of Out on a Whim, 127 E. Lincoln Highway, agrees the 2005 increase will have a bigger effect on businesses than the current increase.

Weinstock pays his employees $1 over the current minimum wage because he thinks it is too low. Starting pay probably will increase by 50 cents when the next increase takes effect, Weinstock said.

Next year’s increase will force some small businesses to close shop, he added. Some of his friends who own small businesses can get by with the current increase, but are not financially stable enough to handle next year’s increase, he said.

The university may feel more of a pinch next year.

“The impact of the new wage has yet to be determined; there will be a larger impact next January when the minimum goes from $5.50 to $6.50,” Celeste Latham of the human resources department said.