CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - People in Charlottesville are pushing businesses to make sure their workers earn a living wage. On Monday, the new-formed Living Wage Coalition of Central Virginia recognized employers already paying at least $15 an hour, and the group is challenging other businesses to do the same.

Monday’s ceremony was held here at the Freedom of Speech Wall. Several businesses from the Charlottesville area were on hand to receive their awards, but the goal is to spread the word about the importance of a living wage. The message was simple - pay a living wage.

"They're working so hard and they're doing everything right, but still are not able to make ends meet,” said Kim Crater, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) chapter chair.

For some people in the Charlottesville area, it doesn't matter how many hours they work, when their pay is under a sustainable living wage.

"Charlottesville is an expensive place to live, especially with the housing costs here. The median rent for an apartment here is $1,237 a month and if you earn minimum wage, you only make $20 more than that a month,” said Crater.

That's why some businesses already pay their workers $15 an hour. The Living Wage Coalition of Central Virginia awarded them a certificate and sticker Monday for their efforts.  

"It's an honor to be recognized and we will continue to do our part and make sure we are vocal and sharing this information with others,” said Aleen Carey, senior manager of philanthropy and communications at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

Some operations said it's difficult to pay a living wage due to other expenses.

"Especially for nonprofits - you do have an issue of budgeting and so you're looking at costs for all of your programs and of course for those who are running those programs,” said Carey.

Experts and businesses agree tackling the issue means evaluating several other factors.

"Sometimes society interprets poverty as a moral problem that's something wrong with people who can't support themselves. It's not always that,” said Crater.  

“The issue of living wage is actually a diversity, equity, and diversion issue as we are looking at leading practices across the country and in our area,” said Carey.

Organizers at the ceremony said the community can help by talking with owners and employees to find out if they make a living wage, and supporting the businesses that do.