Business Insider

Amazon recently made headlines by raising its minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour.

The company had previously come under fire for "exploitative employment practices," so many people felt the raise was long overdue. But despite making $178 billion in 2017, Amazon appears to be unwilling to take the fiscal hit to ensure fair wages for their employees. Many Amazon workers have now said that the raise will actually decrease their total compensation because Amazon will no longer give employees new stock grants and monthly bonuses.

Unfortunately, Amazon is not an isolated example of the negative effects a higher minimum wage can have on employees due to employers unwillingness to lose money. Professor Jon Meer, one of the authors of a new paper that explores the effects of higher minimum wages, said, "[Higher minimum wages] impact other forms of compensation like benefits and possibly other things that aren't picked up in the data, like flexibility and free-parking."

A study done by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research seems to confirm Meer's findings. The study looked at employee pay data from 2011 to 2016, and found "robust evidence" that companies who raised minimum hourly wages also reduced the amount they paid for their employees' health-care benefits in order to make up for the added expense. The study found that workers whose minimum wage was increased by $1 found that 9% to 57% of their wage gains were offset by a decline in their employer's health insurance coverage. So, while workers were technically making more money, they had to spend a larger portion of that raise on health insurance previously provided by their employer.

Recode

In some cases of government-mandated minimum wage increase, workers actually end up with smaller paychecks because of employers unwillingness to cut profit in order to pay employees better wages. In Seattle, a 2016 increase to $13 an hour for minimum wage workers ended up meaning that many workers were scheduled for fewer hours in response to the change. A study by the University of Washington found that after the increase, Seattle workers clocked 9% fewer hours on average, and earned $125 less each month.

Considering Jeff Bezos once made $6 billion in 20 minutes, large companies like Amazon have little excuse not to pay workers enough to live without cutting their benefits. But for smaller businesses — often already fighting a losing battle against companies like Amazon — an increase in state mandated minimum wage can have dire consequences. According to the Employment Policies Institute, many small businesses are forced to close their doors when faced with minimum wage increases.

But then, it's important to consider, how viable is a small business that can't afford to pay workers enough to live? Does America need or want more companies that can't or won't meet minimum wage standards? Perhaps the ability to pay workers a fair minimum wage should be a standard by which we measure the quality of an American company. Unfortunately, the only way we are likely to see widespread progress in the minimum wage conversation is if the culture of American business changes, and companies like Amazon stop valuing money more than people.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.