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Virginia Beach business owner torn over minimum wage hike

Brenda Tusing wants the best for her employees, but she's worried the planned minimum wage hike in May will put the business in a tough financial spot.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For 15 years, The Royal Chocolate has been a Town Center staple in Virginia Beach.

But for co-owner Brenda Tusing, things got a little less sweet in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The chocolate shop survived, which is more than many local small businesses can say, and now that more people are getting vaccinated, business is starting to feel normal again.

“Absolutely it’s increasing,” said Tusing.

But in just over two weeks, Tusing will face another challenge. On May 1, the minimum wage in Virginia will jump from $7.25 an hour to $9.50.

Tusing is torn over the change.

“We want to pay people fairly…” said Tusing. “But the minimum wage is changing by $2.25 an hour. That’s huge.”

All employees at the shop already earn above minimum wage, but you’d be wrong to assume the change won’t affect the business’s bottom line.

“I can’t tell my staff, ‘You’re now a minimum wage employee,’” said Tusing. “You have to [increase pay] accordingly as well.”

Governor Ralph Northam’s chief workforce advisor has said, based on data from other states that have increased wages, business owners should be able to avoid closures.

Workers will also end up paying more in taxes, which gives the state more resources to help businesses if they do struggle.

Virginia's minimum wage is set to rise to $15 an hour by 2026, with the next increase to $11 an hour planned for January 2022.