Stimulus Check Update: Lawmakers Question Minimum Wage Hike as Relief Bill Moves Forward
by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Feb. 25, 2021
As the public waits on a third stimulus check, some lawmakers are voicing opposition to a key portion of the bill that would allow for those payments.
President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal is getting closer to being signed into law. The bill, which features $1,400 stimulus checks, could be headed to the House floor for a vote as early as tomorrow.
But still, some lawmakers are voicing their concerns about the bill, and the issue isn't those large stimulus checks themselves. Rather, it's an issue that's long been the topic of debate -- the federal minimum wage.
There's strong opposition to a minimum wage hike
Currently, the minimum wage sits at $7.25 an hour, though some cities already impose a higher minimum wage. Biden's bill includes a provision that will gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current level to $15 an hour by the year 2025.
But some lawmakers aren't happy with that. In fact, many Republicans have argued that a minimum wage hike could hurt the economy in different ways. While larger corporations may be in a position to absorb a higher minimum wage requirement, many small businesses don't have the resources to raise employee pay. As such, imposing a higher minimum wage could, in time, lead to an uptick in unemployment.
Furthermore, opponents of a minimum wage hike argue that in time, a higher base wage won't actually give the country's lowest earners more buying powers. As wages increase, so too will rents and other common expenses. Or, to put it another way, some worry that the only thing a higher minimum wage will do is accelerate inflation, making it more difficult for the majority of Americans to retain their buying power.
And it's not just Republican lawmakers who are opposed to a higher minimum wage. Several Democratic senators have raised concerns about the idea of more than doubling the minimum wage over the next four years.
$1,400 checks could arrive soon
Despite some lawmakers' opposition to a higher minimum wage, the aforementioned relief bill is still being pushed forward -- especially since it also includes an extension of unemployment benefits, which are set to run out for many Americans by the middle of March. As such, there's a good chance Americans could see those $1,400 stimulus payments hit their bank accounts sometime next month.
Of course, many Americans need that money for basic expenses like food, medication, and rent. Others may be in a position to use that money to pad their savings, invest, or spend it at leisure. In addition to opposing a minimum wage hike, Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns over those $1,400 payments going into the pockets of people who don't really need them. But there's an argument to be made that leisure spending serves the very important purpose of boosting the economy and potentially saving jobs.
It looks like this next round of stimulus payments will incorporate the same income thresholds for eligibility as the last round, which means that individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples earning $150,000 or less will be eligible for a stimulus in full. The difference, however, is that those payments may get cut off for individuals earning $100,000 or more and couples earning $200,000 or more.
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