Congress seems poised to separate minimum wage from COVID relief

In test votes early this morning, the U.S. Senate indicated it was not willing at this point to raise the minimum wage during the pandemic, sending a signal that Congress may decouple the $15-an-hour minimum wage advocated by the president from his $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal. The Senate did approve a budget that includes the massive COVID-19 relief package. The House approved the Senate changes today as well.

In addition to more individual stimulus payments and vaccination funding, the president’s proposal at present calls for an incremental increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Besides Republicans, key moderate Democrats are calling for the minimum wage proposal to be detached from the remainder of the coronavirus relief package. Minimum wage bills, introduced separately from the COVID package, call for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour immediately upon approval as a first step in getting to $15 an hour.

The average hourly wage of retail salespeople in Alabama is $13.38, according to the Labor Market Information Division of the Alabama Department of Labor. Several Alabama Retail Association members have let us know that while they pay above minimum now for entry-level workers, an increase to $15 over a five-year span could put their business in peril.

Even Alabama’s Democratic representative has not been an advocate of a $15 minimum for Alabama. U.S. Rep Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, led a Democratic effort in 2019 for a regional minimum wage based on the region’s cost of living, according to a news release issued by her office at the time. “The cost of living in Selma, Alabama, is very different than New York City,” Sewell said.

Giving Alabama’s congressional delegation concrete examples of the reality of doubling the minimum wage at this time will help them better represent you.

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This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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