Child Poverty

The House Passes the Raise the Wage Act

July 26, 2019 | National

For too many families trying to get by in America, work doesn’t pay. More than a third of the 12.8 million poor children in this country live in families with at least one full-time, year-round worker and, in total, one in nine full-time workers are paid wages that leave them in poverty. For over a decade, the federal minimum wage has stagnated at $7.25, which, adjusted for inflation, is less than the federal minimum wage in 1968.

Last week, the House passed H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act, to give America’s low-wage workers a badly needed raise.

The bill would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and index future increases to median wage growth. Increasing the minimum wage will substantially benefit workers and families by giving up to 33 million Americans a raise, boosting the economy and lifting 1.3 million people out of poverty, nearly half of whom are children. The act would also phase out subminimum wage pay for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities, which will help ensure workers are receiving consistent and livable wages and more equitable opportunities.

The bill passed on July 18 by a vote of 231-199 with a small number of House Democrats voting against the plan and citing their preference for a longer phase-in period or a regionally-adjusted minimum wage. To address concerns that the increase may be too hurried, the House secured an amendment requiring the Government Accountability Office to submit a report on the economic and employment impacts of the increases. This would allow Congress to assess whether any additional legislative action is needed to delay or modify the scheduled wage increases.

Though the bill is unlikely to pass in the Republican-held Senate, its support extends well beyond Congressional Democrats. A Hill-HarrisX poll earlier this year found that 82 percent of registered voters supported increasing the federal minimum wage and the majority of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters were supportive of a $15 minimum (73 percent, 70 percent and 53 percent respectively).

Although some lawmakers have stated support for a regional minimum wage over the Raise the Wage Act, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has found that these proposals would not be as impactful as a universal minimum wage. Earlier this month, EPI conducted an analysis comparing the impacts of a regional minimum wage proposal to that of an earlier but similar version of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 and found that 15.6 million fewer workers would get a raise under the regional proposal and workers in the South tend to get much smaller raises under this proposal than under a $15 federal minimum wage. It is time to lift struggling workers and their families out of poverty by increasing the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, rather than considering compromises that are less effective and maintain inequities.

The House’s Raise the Wage Act is a critical step toward ending child poverty. To help families make ends meet and support their children’s development, it is essential we raise the federal minimum wage. Read the Raise the Wage Fact Sheet to learn more.