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Listen In: Ahead of Amendment 2 Taking Effect on Thursday, UCF’s Amy Donley Unpacks Whether the $10 Minimum Wage is Enough for Struggling Floridians

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Photo: Breno Assis

The minimum wage in Florida will rise to $10 an hour on Thursday. That number will then increase a dollar a year until it hits $15 an hour in 2026. 

WMFE spoke with University of Central Florida’s Amy Donley about whether that will be enough to help 1 in 5 local families out of poverty. 

Read the full interview below. 

Danielle: You know, on Thursday, we’re going to have the minimum wage raise to $10 an hour. Do you think it’s enough?

Prof. Donley: Unfortunately, no. It’s of course, it’s it’s, it’s a good start, right, you know more money to make $10 an hour as opposed to $8.65. Sure, it’s a good thing. But it’s not enough, the gap is too high between income and rent for so many people that it’s not going to increase the stability of you know a lot of workers in our area.

Danielle: By 2026, we’re supposed to be up to at least $15 an hour, will that be quick enough for some workers, and maybe even $15 isn’t enough in this market?

Prof. Donley: Well without opportunities for people to enter the housing market, and to be able to not spend 40, 50, 60, 70% of their income just on their housing, you know, they’re not going to be able to get ahead. So if housing continues to increase, it’s gone up 13% rent has since the beginning of the year, if it continues at a pace like that, or even half of that pace $15 now or in 2026, is not going to be enough to increase the stability.

Danielle: How do these very low wages affect families and children in this area? In terms of just quality of life? What does it look like for a family whose struggling here?

Prof. Donley: Yeah, everything is difficult, right? And and it means a lot of pressure on the social service sector to really help families fill in the gaps. So food pantries, low-cost grocery programs, people having to spend a lot more time commuting to and from work because they have to rely on public transportation, they can’t afford their own car or can’t afford a reliable vehicle. You know, it, you have to make some really difficult choices when your priorities are staying in your home, keeping your lights on. So things like medical care, you know, get pushed aside, oftentimes increases in food insecurity. Because you have to prioritize everything. And most people put housing first, and then everything else falls in line. So the very bottom would be things like, you know, extracurricular activities for children, right, even getting to some of their quality of life issues. They can’t even be on the table for a lot of people because you have to focus so much on just meeting your basic needs.

Danielle: You know, my last question is, what are the stakes if we don’t fix this problem? Are we going to keep losing people from the state? Are we going to see, you know, a rise in other societal problems related to poverty? What are the stakes if we don’t kind of fix this quickly enough?

Prof. Donley: Right now, in the community, there’s a lot of funding through, you know, COVID-related funding, CARES funding, and there’s a real concern when that funding dissipates over the next, you know, year to two years, what what’s going to happen then is the need even going to be worse? Is the need almost being hidden by some of the temporary funding that is in place in the community? So things like evictions, an increase in homelessness, increase in food insecurity, right, all of the societal problems that we are concerned about, I mean, if there aren’t safeguards put in place for our workers, all these problems are going to continue to increase. And, you know, we are an economy built on on tourism and precarious work. And so we have to meet the needs of the people that are really generating the bulk of the economy.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »