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Democrats debate increasing minimum wage to $15/hour in COVID-19 stimulus bill

Should Congress raise the minimum wage in this round of economic relief?
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Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 19:51:37-05

WASHINGTON — What should the minimum wage be?

Depending on where you live, it is a different answer. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, a figure that has been the same since 2009.

A number of states have increased the rate on their own. Meanwhile, several states depicted below in red have looked to the federal government to set policy.

TIME FOR A CHANGE?

Congress is considering an update to the federal minimum wage law in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill.

President Joe Biden has endorsed a $15 per hour minimum wage and Senator Bernie Sanders is leading the effort to have it included in the pending stimulus bill. Not every Democratic senator is on board yet with the proposal, so the future remains up in the air

IMPACT OF INCREASE

Douglas Gay is a worker in Alabama and has earned right around minimum wage his entire life.

"It gives me a sense of security, to know that I can go to a job and actually make enough money to actually live," Gay said, commenting on the prospect of a higher wage.

Alabama is one of five states with no state minimum wage.

"Alabama has never instituted a state minimum wage, the only protections are the ones instituted by the federal government," Dev Wakeley with Alabama Arise said.

BUSINESS CONCERN

A number of business owners, however, have expressed concerns about the increase.

"It’s just something politicians don’t understand," said Mark Berzins, a restaurant and bar owner in Denver.

Denver is a city with a higher minimum wage than most cities in the US at $14.77 per hour. Berzins says it hasn't shut down his business operation, but it has resulted in price increases for customers.

"We’ve had pretty regular price increases," Berzins said.

Berzins says if $15 an hour goes nationwide, you'll see a number of restaurant owners reducing staff by implementing more QR codes at tables.

The pandemic, Berzins claims, has made diners more familiar with the process.

"You are going to see a lot more places saying 'we are eliminating table service,'" Berzins said.

In late 2019, the Congressional Budget Office released projections on the impact of minimum wage increasing to $15 an hour nationwide. The data found that while an increased minimum wage would likely lift some workers out of poverty, it would cause increased joblessness.