Small business owners have concerns about wage proposal

Sandy Trent started the Helping Hand Chauffeur Service 20 years ago.
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During his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President Barack Obama talked about the need to raise the minimum wage.

Currently, the wage stands at $7.25 an hour. He would like to see that increased to $9 an hour, but how would such an increase affect workers and the people who employ them?

Loretta McCandless likes driving for a living. Since her husband died in 2011, she has kept busy driving for the Helping Hand Chauffeur Service in Ladoga. As she prepared to leave on another excursion, Wednesday afternoon, Sandy Trent came out to meet her.

Helping Hand is a small business that Trent runs out of her home. She has 11 employees who transport customers to the doctor or to the deaf and blind schools, or take children with autism to school.

"I get Social Security, but it gives me a little extra and it keeps me busy and occupied," McCandless said as she drove through rural Montgomery County Wednesday.

Trent sees it more as a calling than actually work, but when she heard the President push for raising the minimum wage Tuesday night, she was afraid that calling was about to be disconnected.

"If it goes to $9, that means I will be cutting a lot of drivers back to 20 hours to make it part-time instead of full-time, because I can't afford it," she said.

That would be hard not only for the drivers, like Loretta, and their customers, but also hard on Sandy, who started the business 20 years ago because of a dream.

"It was like a dream and I had a kid in the back seat and I knew I was taking him to the doctor. A couple of weeks later, same thing, and I thought, "I'm going to do that'," she said.

She's done it now for 20 years. There have been some detours along the way, but for the most part, it's been a clear path until now. Even Loretta understands that not only her job may be at stake, but the entire business.

"I'm not sure that we...none of us would have a job, then, if it went to $9," she said.

She understands, but she does have it a little better than most, with Social Security. The supplemental income and the opportunity to get out of the house everyday would certainly be hard to give up.

Trent hopes it doesn't come to that. She hopes any bill to raise the minimum wage would include an opportunity for those who want to work for less to still be able to, but that is a little further down the road.