Flagstaff’s Minimum Wage Hike Threatens Elderly and Disabled Residents

Flagstaff, Ariz. will raise its minimum wage to $11.00 on January 1, 2018. That wage is $1.00 higher than Arizona’s $10.00 state minimum wage and $3.75 higher than the federal minimum wage. Hell-bent on higher wages, city council members have turned a blind eye to how this law affects Flagstaff’s disabled and elderly residents.

Two local companies—Abrio Care and Quality Connections—provide essential medical and hygienic care, day programs and employment opportunities for local elderly and disabled Arizonans. The importance of these services should be both obvious and impossible to overstate.

However, Flagstaff’s soaring minimum wage has forced owners Rick Hargrove and Armando Bernasoni into a difficult bind. With already paper-thin profit margins, higher minimum wages make it difficult for these companies to function at all. Hargrove’s company could not survive in Flagstaff and has relocated from Flagstaff to the Phoenix area. Bernasoni is demanding remedial funding from the city council.

“Disabled cleansing” is how Hargrove described these effects from Flagstaff’s new minimum wage to the Arizona Daily Sun. “We are cleansing people with disabilities and indigent seniors out of our community.”

With care providers having no choice but to leave Flagstaff, elderly and disabled citizens will be left without “appropriate and reasonable access to care,” Hargrove said in a phone conversation. Options for care are “evaporating,” he added.

Overwhelming academic research proves that raising minimum wages decreases employment opportunities for less-skilled workers. Flagstaff is no exception. Cashiers and burger flippers lucky enough to keep their jobs will likely appreciate the larger paychecks. Unlucky ones will have to find new employment.

But the Flagstaff city council is exponentially worsening the already-bad consequences of higher minimum wages by driving out crucial care and employment service providers. By raising its minimum wage, Flagstaff has transcended mere bad policy by directly contributing to the inhuman living conditions now endured but its most vulnerable residents.