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Minimum wage stimulus update: What to know about the proposal to hike it to $15

All eyes are on the COVID-19 relief plan currently being worked out in Congress, but worker advocates are paying particular attention to one part of it—the proposed new federal minimum wage.

That dollar amount is hotly debated, not only across the aisle, but within the Democratic party. The disagreement stems from whether the proposed hike to $15 an hour will dissuade some politicians from voting to pass a stimulus package that’s badly needed. Here’s what to understand about this contentious issue:

WHAT IS THE CURRENT RATE?

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, put in place in July 2009. The previous year it was $6.55 and the year before that, $5.85.; this is the longest the United States has ever gone without raising it. Most states have their own minimum wage law, too. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, five states have no minimum wage and two have ones that are below the federal one, so those seven abide by the federal amount. Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have minimum wages that are higher than the U.S. government’s.

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