LTE: Hozhoni won't survive living wage

June 5, 2016
Arizona Daily Sun
Monica Attridge, CEO of the Hozhoni Foundation

To the editor:

The move to a "living wage" of $15/hour in Flagstaff sounds like a righteous effort, but there are dire consequences. Much has been written already about the injurious effects on the retail and restaurant industry, but it is critical to note the effect on nonprofits, especially those whose revenues/reimbursements are determined at federal and state levels. The revenue is a percentage of an actuarially determined cost, which does not take into account wages of $15/hour.

The Hozhoni Foundation has been caring for people with intellectual disabilities in Flagstaff for 46 years. We serve about 100 clients in our programs. Caregivers make $8.55/hour to start. If we could afford to pay more, we would. We have dozens of staff openings and crushing overtime costs. We are underfunded by 22 percent of the cost of services. If the "living wage" passes, we will not survive. Our clients would be forced to move to other cities, away from their families, and about 130 staff would lose their jobs. For our funding authorities to increase the reimbursement we receive, the process would take months, if not years.

I spoke with a woman collecting petition signatures on this issue. She said that they know there will be casualties, but there is a greater ideological battle that must be fought. I was livid - the people for whom we provide care are not casualties.

Please consider carefully who you may be harming when you sign a petition and when you vote.

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