Ocean City businesses can't afford to pay higher minimum wages [Letter]

December 28, 2013

Small business owners on the Eastern Shore, especially Ocean City, may not be able to afford to pay an employee more than $8.25 per hour. And we are not alone; many small towns in Maryland have Mom and Pop businesses.

In Ocean City, we have a four-month season, and after that business owners are forced to live off our savings and meager profit from the summer. Many businesses here close after Oct. 1 and have a zero revenue stream until April.

Many people that live here year-round are placed on unemployment in the winter. Can you live for six months without a paycheck? Thomas V. Mike Miller has it right: Worcester County cannot be subjected to a straightforward minimum wage. We must be one of the counties that is allowed to make an exception.

Because it is hard to hire good talent for only four months, most employers here know when to pay more than $7.25 per hour. But don't dictate anything more than $8.25 to us. Let that be our choice.

Trust me, those at the beach who can pay more do. But the business owner should have the flexibility to make that determination, not the state.

Raising the wage above $8.25 will close many businesses here in Ocean City. When those businesses close, the state will lose the 6 percent sales tax revenue from those closed registers. Businesses that do not close will raise their prices and pass this cost on to the customer. Sooner or later, the customer won't come to the beach, and even more businesses will close.

Why should a small business owner supplement food stamps and other social government assistance programs? If the state would learn to manage its money like the rest of us, perhaps it could afford the social programs it has developed.

People should accept responsibility if they have children and a family. Most everyone has the ability to obtain a skill or a college education, join the military or attend community college. Each of us is expected to contribute to society. These minimum wage jobs are here for high school students, college students, retirees and stay-at-home parents looking for extra cash. They were not meant for a person to raise a family on a permanent basis.

Our governments both, locally and nationally, must bring back jobs that will pay a citizen $30,000 or more a year. Manufacturing jobs will help accomplish this task. I understand that manufacturing jobs shifted overseas because the wages were lower and that would increase businesses' profits. But creating more minimum wage jobs is not the solution. Raising the minimum wage and keeping a group of people impoverished is not the solution.

We need to implement a solution that does two things: Create well paying jobs and a "Welfare to Skills to Work Program" limiting the time one can spend on the social programs. Too many in our society think the social programs are there to live on forever. They will work a minimum wage job their whole life and take the social welfare to supplement their income. That is not fair to anyone. People must be held accountable and raise themselves up, not keep themselves down.

The solutions should not increase social programs in our society, but create programs that will allow people to be proud of their lives. I would rather see my tax dollar go to well managed, solution-oriented programs that will create better opportunities and a much improved quality of life.

I was in Baltimore recently and spoke with an officer about the city and the people. Inner city Baltimore has some serious "pill" problems. Obviously, those people are not going to be employable until they are rehabilitated, but one has to want to be helped to move up.

Allowing people to collect social benefits because they cannot control their addictions should not be a permanent burden on the taxpayer. The current social programs need to be revamped, reorganized and new programs with teeth need to be added to raise people who are struggling group up to a basic level of living, and it should not be on the backs of the small business owner.

Tracey Hofman, Ocean Pines

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