CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The mayor of West Virginia’s capital said she wants to work on raising the minimum wage for city workers to $15 an hour this year and look at providing free or low-cost housing options for mental health workers.
Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin, a Democrat who was recently reelected to a second term, said every city employee has received some form of a raise in the last four years. But she said she wants to take those efforts a step further.
“We are going to be asking council to work with us on the goal of making sure there isn’t any city employee in the city of Charleston that makes less than $15 an hour,” Goodwin said during her “State of the City” address Tuesday night.
Goodwin did not say how many city employees are currently making less than $15 an hour. West Virginia’s state minimum wage rate is $8.75 per hour, which is $1.50 more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Congress hasn’t increased the federal minimum wage since 2009.
In four states and 36 cities and counties, the minimum wage was set to reach or exceed $15 an hour for some or all employees starting Jan. 1, according to a recent report from the worker advocacy organization National Employment Law Project.
In her speech, Goodwin also said implementing low-to-no cost housing options for mental health professionals could help draw more people working in that field to live in Charleston.
Goodwin said the city is working to identify five properties in Charleston that can be used for housing mental health workers who agree to work on the city’s “critical areas of need.” Those critical areas include children and teenagers living with trauma due to violence, seniors and people experiencing homelessness or formerly unsheltered people who need help transitioning into housing.
The proposals are part of an effort to boost support for residents and revitalize the capital city of West Virginia, the state that leads all others in opioid overdoses per capita. The issues of substance misuse, mental health and homelessness often go hand in hand.