IN FOCUS Discussion: Raising the minimum wage

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed a COVID relief bill aimed at getting money to those affected by the pandemic. One part of the bill was to increase the federal minimum wage to $15, which is currently at $7.25 per hour. That translates to a little more than $15,000 a year for someone working full-time at the federal minimum wage.

A 2019 study from the Congressional Budget Office projected that an increase to $15 an hour would boost the wages of 17 million Americans. An additional 10 million workers making more than $15 an hour would see a boost as well. However, about 1.3 million workers would lose their jobs and cause some small businesses to close shop

Some U.S. republican lawmakers supported exploring an increase, but said they were uneasy with $15 an hour. They warned that such an increase could lead to job losses in an economy that has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic began. Ultimately, this part of the COVID relief package was eliminated.

Utah’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour aligns with the baseline federal standard, but is significantly lower than 29 other states and has not increased with inflation for more than 10 years. So what’s next in the conversation about minimum wage and what has its impact been on our local economy, cost of living, and quality of life?

Prof. Thomas Maloney, who teaches economics at the University of Utah joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion on the history of the U.S. minimum wage. He talked about when and why it was first enacted, how economists research the issue, and the impact on areas where the minimum wage is higher than the federal level.

Connor Boyack, President of Libertas Institute addressed why his organization opposes raising the minimum wage, why he thinks the concept is popular across the country, whether there would be worker exploitation if businesses were allowed to create their own wages with no regulation, and whether higher wages would pump more money into the economy and help businesses.

Rep. Clare Collard, D-Magna, who was one of two legislators who ran bills last session to increase the minimum wage talked about why she feels it should be raised incrementally to $15 per hour by 2025 across the entire state, how she feels about the proposal to allow counties to raise it to different amounts, whether the government should be the ones setting the wage, and whether she thinks raising the minimum wage will bring people out of poverty.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Prof. Maloney, Boyack, and Rep. Collard, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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