WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, President-Elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 Trillion care proposal to help combat the economic effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and among the provisions in that package – such as enhanced unemployment, $1,400 stimulus checks, and local government aid – is a bid to increase the federal minimum wage to $15.
The move, if successful, would be the first time the federal minimum wage – currently still at $7.25 per hour – has been increased since 2009, Biden said during Thursday night’s speech.
“There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour,” he said. “Nobody working 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty line.”
Biden pointed out that several states have already implemented a $15 minimum wage, including Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
“Florida just passed it, as divided as that state is, they just passed it. The rest of the country is ready to move as well,” he said.
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The proposal would also end tipped minimum wage – where workers in professions such as food service receive a lower hourly wage in exchange for customer-supplied tips – and sub-minimum wage for individuals with disabilities.
A study from the UC Berkeley Labor Center claims that the country’s current $7.25 minimum wage law costs approximately $100 million a year for taxpayers, since about 50 percent of families with members reliant on minimum wage jobs typically need to utilize more or more government safety net programs, such as Medicaid or SNAP.
However, while the benefits of Biden’s proposal for many workers would be great, plenty of business owners – already on the ropes from mandatory lockdown orders issued to help stem the spread of COVID-19 – can scarcely afford to remain open, let alone double their salary budget. Some experts are worried that such a jump to the minimum wage could result in less jobs overall as well as higher prices for consumers and more automation in the workplace.
Also, some lawmakers have pointed out minimum wage increases should be more localized, due to major differences in the cost of living in different regions across the United States.
Biden’s proposal currently doesn’t address a timeline for the rollout , should it become law.