President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal on Thursday. A part of it calls for a fatter paycheck for those working on federal minimum pay. Biden suggested boosting the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, arguing that "No one working 40 hours a week should still be below the poverty line."
While presenting his speech on Thursday night in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden also went ahead of the critics reluctant to believe the plan will come true. “People tell me that’s going to be hard to pass. 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.”
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2009, and for over 33 million workers, the proposal feels like a tipping point for the better. But the Republicans balk at the idea, which makes Biden’s plans likely to be delayed. This, of course, has stirred heated reactions on social media, with many people weighing in on the needlessly ‘dramatic’ $15 wage discourse that’s been angering those conservatives.
The federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, has not been updated since 2009 even though it has been called an unlivable income in most parts of the country. But the newly elected president Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” gives hope after the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December and unemployment claims surged in the latest weekly count by the most since March due to the pandemic.
But the procedure to pass the $15/h boost will not be a straightforward one. According to Bloomberg, “The Biden administration, due to take office next week, would need at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to get its relief bill through Congress—unless it goes through the budget reconciliation process, where a bare majority is enough.”
Other major parts of the $1.9 trillion Biden relief plan include:
- $2,000 stimulus checks on top of the $600 that Congress approved in December;
- $20 billion national vaccine distribution program that would provide free shots to all U.S. residents regardless of immigration status;
- $350 billion in state funding, local and territorial governments, and $20 billion for public transit systems;
- extending unemployment benefits;
- requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers during the pandemic (estimated to benefit 106 million workers);
- expanding tax credits for low- and middle-income families, as well as expanding child tax credit;
- $170 billion to help schools to open;
- $30 billion rental assistance for low-income households;
- financing small businesses and providing grants for such employers.