A $15 minimum wage would benefit 32 million workers, including many in essential and front-line positions


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An estimated 32 million people would benefit from the bill introduced Tuesday by the House of Representatives to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, the progressive Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds. And the majority of those affected would be essential and front-line workers.

A higher minimum wage would affect over 20% of the nation's workforce, EPI finds. Just over half of those who would benefit are adults in their prime working years between the ages of 25 and 54. About 10% are teenagers.

The workers most likely to benefit include substitute teachers, nursing assistants, grocery store employees, janitors, cooks and other food preparation workers and home health aides, EPI reports.

Women and minorities would especially benefit from the bill. EPI notes that 31% of Black workers and 26% of Latinos would see their wages increase. Almost a quarter, 23%, of workers who would benefit from an increased minimum wage are Black or Latina women.

Under the new minimum, the average affected worker would earn an additional $3,300 per year, EPI says. That is good for the economy, advocates say, because low wage workers will spend the extra earnings on local business and services.

"This injection of wages will help stimulate the economy and spur greater business activity and job growth," writes Ben Zipperer, an economist at EPI.

The federal minimum wage hasn't increased in over a decade

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour since 2009. The House's Raise the Wage Act would gradually increase that to $15 in 2025, after which it would be indexed to median wage growth. Additionally, the bill gradually phases out the $2.13 per hour subminimum wage earned by tipped workers, as well as the subminimum wage for youth workers and those with disabilities.

Here's how the minimum wage would be scheduled to increase if the bill passes as is:

  • 2021: $9.50
  • 2022: $11.00
  • 2023: $12.50
  • 2024: $14.00
  • 2025: $15.00

President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated his support for a $15 federal minimum wage, calling for the increase in the coronavirus relief plan he unveiled earlier this month.

Democrats in the House previously passed a version of the Raise the Wage Act in 2019, but it was not taken up in the then-GOP-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats control both chambers in addition to the presidency, there is more momentum behind passing the wage increase. More than half of states currently have a minimum wage floor above $7.25.

Critics say a higher minimum wage would hurt businesses, particularly small businesses without large margins. In 2019, the Congressional Budget Office found that implementing a $15 minimum hourly wage by 2025 would increase pay for at least 17 million workers, but it would also cost 1.3 million jobs.

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