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Wage advocates say new Missouri minimum still not enough


Thousands of workers in Missouri received a raise at the start of the new year, but the extra money still doesn't match the cost of living.

The Missouri minimum wage increased to $12 an hour under Proposition B. This is the last year under Prop B, passed by voters in 2018, which raised the minimum wage in the state each year.

According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a livable wage in Missouri would be around $16.29, more than $4 higher than the new state minimum wage.

Jane Williams, executive director of Love Columbia, a nonprofit that helps financially challenged people in Mid-Missouri, said the rising minimum wage does not keep up with the rising cost of living.

"Even people making $17 an hour, $18 an hour are really struggling to pay rent," Williams said. "We have seen rent go up about 20% in the last year and a half, and certainly very few people's wages gave gone up 20%."

Love Columbia offers financial advice and free classes on how to do things like pay taxes or build up savings.

"It really does help if you have other people to encourage you and brainstorm with just about possible solutions," Williams said.

James Warta, outreach officer for the Coalition of Graduate Workers, said graduate student workers live on fixed incomes even lower than the state minimum wage.

"At the lower income brackets, food and essentials may take up most of our income so when those prices go up, were oftentimes hit the hardest," Warta said.

Warta said it sometimes gets so bad, students cannot even pay union dues.

"I've had people say, 'I would like to start contributing, I would like to join but I only have $15 left in my bank account,'" Warta said.

The Coalition of Graduate students wants the University of Missouri to provide more services like better healthcare or student housing.

Providing more services is something echoed by other fair-wage advocates, such as Empower Missouri. Executive Director Mallory Rusch said the organization is working with lawmakers on things such as eliminating the tax on groceries and creating a higher standard for paid time off.

"A lot of times folks are pushed out of these low wage jobs because they have an illness, or because they're choosing to grow their families and you know are not afforded the time to take off work to appropriately bond with their with their new children," Rusch said.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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