NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Amendment 2 passes, Florida's minimum wage would go up to $15 an hour.
One single mother in Suncoast Estates says the increase could change her life and others like her.
Christine Gray held a photo of her 14-year-old daughter Alaina Staino. She died in a hit-and-run crash in January.
“I want to see this neighborhood get back to where it used to be for her,” said Gray.
She says most of her memories with her daughter are kissing her goodbye before working the night shift.
“After my daughter passed away, I realized I’m not the only one in that boat,” she said. “My biggest regret was having to look back and say, I spent so much time working. When are we there for our kids?”
Gray says she has degrees in forensic studies among other disciplines, but she says her identity was stolen, making it difficult to work in her field.
Amendment 2 would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026. Gray says in that case, single mothers like herself may only have to work one job instead of several to provide for their families. She credits prevalent crime in her neighborhood to many children growing up unsupervised.
“I have seen our area pop up on some of the worst listings. Not just for crime; for homelessness, lowest cost of wages, verses highest cost of living,” she said.
According to the Lee County Sheriff’s crime map, Suncoast Estates has a high crime rate, mainly theft, followed by assault and home break-ins.
Finance Professor Tom Smythe at Florida Gulf Coast University says Amendment 2 won’t solve their problems.
"Raising the minimum wage in my opinion - my professional opinion - is not the answer that we need to be looking at," he said.
He says benefits of a higher wage will be short-term, hurting businesses and trickling down to everyone else in the long run.
“They’re either going to have to reduce their labor cost, which means they’ll either stop hiring or in some cases lay off. Or they’ll have to increase prices,” said Smythe.
Gray also says Amendment 2 alone won’t cut it. She says that’s where the government should come in.
“The state needs to step in and start monitoring the cost of living verses the pay wage. That’s their job, their supposed to make sure that it balances,” she said.
Smythe agrees, but rather than raise the minimum wage, he says an incentive program is the way to go. The government would provide assistance to minimum wage workers like food stamps, supplement their income for a limited time, and motivate them to earn a skill set to earn higher wages so they no longer need the assistance to survive.
Amendment 2 will be on the November 3rd ballot. If passed, it would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $10 an hour next year and by a dollar every year after that until it gets to 15/hour in 2026.