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Columbus City Council approves $20 minimum wage for businesses getting tax breaks

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Original story updated Dec. 6 @ 5:15 a.m.

Columbus companies will soon have to pay their workers higher wages to qualify for certain incentives from the city.

Columbus City Council on Monday signed off on the plan to raise the minimum wage required from $15 to $20.

"If you work in the city of Columbus, you should be able to live in the city of Columbus," said councilmember Nick Bankston.

The minimum wage increase only applies to businesses receiving economic incentives from the city. A city-wide minimum wage increase would have exceeded council's authority, Bankston said.

"The Statehouse has pre-empted us in that cities cannot raise the minimum wage on their own. That has to be raised at the state level, and so our hands are basically tied," he said.

Bankston said most of the city's job sectors already pay an average of at least $20 an hour.

The warehousing and logistics sector is an exception, he said, but has made recent strides to pay more for entry-level positions.

Bankston said he hopes the $20 an hour minimum strikes a balance, reflecting the community's values while also ensuring Columbus stays competitive.

"At the end of the day, we don't want to lose out on any opportunities for our residents, but we want to make sure that if you're receiving any kind of tax incentive from the city of Columbus, that you're paying a living wage," he said.

The city has to decide every three years whether to raise or lower the minimum wage threshold.

The change takes effect January 1.

Matthew Rand is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher.