One of Portland’s recently passed referenda, hazard pay (which sets the minimum wage at $18 an hour during declared emergencies), has been creating a stir among Portland business owners.

It is unclear when this ordinance will go into effect; one of the primary obstacles preventing its implementation is that multiple Portland business owners say it will hurt their businesses, possibly to the point of having to shut down or lay even more workers off. Thus, a lawsuit is underway intended to stop hazard pay from being passed and enforced.

Workers are hurting a lot right now, myself included, and being able to earn more money during such a financially challenging time would certainly be a hand up. However, I am unwilling to potentially put myself out of a job to earn a little extra cash right now. Hazard pay is shortsighted and could actually end up hurting working Portlanders more than helping them.

To think it’s a good idea to force businesses to increase wages during a pandemic when the businesses are already struggling to remain open is irresponsible. Most businesses are only making about 60 percent of their regular revenue since COVID. If hazard pay were to be enforced it could make decreasing staff or shutting down for the winter a necessary decision.

According to Maine Small Business Development Centers, approximately 55 percent of small businesses in Maine had to close during COVID. This is a time we should be making things easier for businesses, not harder. If Portland businesses suffer, their workers will inevitably suffer as well.

Cailyn Burke

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