In an effort to provide relief to small businesses struggling during the pandemic, the San Carlos City Council passed a resolution Monday evening delaying a previously approved increase to the city’s minimum wage rate.
Having passed 4-1 with Councilman Mark Olbert dissenting, the approved measure will delay the minimum wage increase until Jan. 1, 2021. The original measure approved earlier this year would have raised the minimum wage rate to $15 per hour beginning July 1 for employers that maintain a place of business in the city of San Carlos or perform any work or service within city limits.
Olbert’s dissent arose out of concern for minimum wage workers who he said are unable to lobby the council to search for other answers to alleviate financial problems for businesses.
“I understand this is only a short-term deferral, but we’re essentially putting a burden that we were trying to cure ... on the backs of people who are the least well positioned in society to sustain it,” said Olbert at the remote meeting.
Olbert proposed the council consider reducing other financial obligations placed on businesses such as sewer and garbage fees, placing the burden on the city’s general fund instead of workers.
“It would certainly cost the general fund of the city some money. I’m not opposed to doing that. I’m not opposed to the philanthropic efforts that we’ve established to help local businesses and to help local homeowners and renters that are having difficulty. What I’m concerned about frankly, is doing something that is taking advantage of the people that are least able to afford this,” said Olbert.
While councilmembers said they grappled with the proposal, Vice Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan said she ultimately landed on her decision to vote for the proposal after recognizing the amount of shops and restaurants shuttered due to financial restraints.
“I’m truly looking at this issue as a timing issue. Is it really practical for us to move forward with a proposed date of July 1 under these circumstances and that’s kind of where I landed,” said Parmer-Lohan. “It’s just not an easy decision either way that you look at it. We are under the weight of this coronavirus outbreak and the pressure is just enormous everywhere so I don’t think this is an easy decision any way you look at it.”
Parmer-Lohan and Councilwoman Sarah McDowell both echoed a statement made by Councilman Adam Rak that the city is “keeping pace with other neighboring towns” and showed appreciation for essential workers.
McDowell said ensuring workers feel financially sound in a community growing increasingly expensive was a priority.
“I am supportive of delaying it until January to give our businesses some breathing room. But I want to return to the fact that wages in our county have just not kept pace with the skyrocketing cost of living and so when our workers do go back to work it’s really important that they feel supported and feel like they can earn enough to actually try to live in our communities,” said McDowell.
An additional resolution was unanimously passed by the council appropriating $50,000 from the unassigned general fund to One Life Counseling Center providing groceries and other necessities to families struggling through the pandemic.
Also unanimously approved was an ordinance adding construction time limits and penalties to the municipal code. Time limits would be based on the size of the proposed development and would require developers to pay a fee for 60-day extensions or face penalties.
An item was approved to be placed on a future agenda to adopt a resolution condemning discrimination and united against racism and xenophobia.