Addressing The Raise the Wage Act of 2021
By Claira Eastwood
As the school year quickly comes to a close and students all over the country start looking for summer jobs, many restaurants and businesses are open and ready to hire. While these establishments have always been willing to hire students who are out of school for the summer and willing to work for minimum wage, something is different about this year in particular.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people across the country have been out of work for a year or longer. People in some states have been living on unemployment checks for the majority of that time, and found that they are making more money staying unemployed than they would be if they worked a job for minimum wage. 
While this is great news for students eager to find work, the information is less welcome for those living on unemployment but who need to find a job. For those who have been living in states where they make more on unemployment than they did when they were working, the idea of returning to a low paying, minimum wage job is anything but appealing.
Over the years, the question of whether or not to raise minimum wage has been broached many times. It has been argued that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would lift millions of people out of poverty, a benefit that is long overdue.  Not only would the extra money help those struggling financially, it would help the U.S. economy as well.
According to the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which would ensure that the lowest possible wage in the country would be $15, raising the federal minimum wage would not only raise the standard of living in the United States, but also close racial disparities, stimulate the economy, and decrease the number of people in the U.S. who would be reliant on public assistance spending. 
As of right now, around half of Black and Latino workers are making less than the $15 minimum wage. By raising the federal minimum wage to at least $15 per hour, racial disparities would not disappear, but may change for the better.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 also addresses how raising the federal minimum wage would help the U.S. economy instead of hurt it, as some have assumed since the start of the minimum wage debate. Since 70% of our gross domestic product comes from consumer spending, workers who are making more money will have more disposable income, meaning they would be able to spend more money if they wish, which could in turn stimulate the economy. 
On that same note, public assistance spending makes up about $107 billion each year. Of the people who would receive a raise under the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, many of them have a family member who receives public assistance spending. While the point of the act isn’t to take away funding from people who need it, by raising the minimum wage, lots of people would have the money they need.
While this country may have a lot of work to do when it comes to helping people find and keep well-paying jobs, students who need work for the summer should take advantage of the current opportunity presented to them. If you are looking for a job for the summer, making sure you have a resume that is unique to you is important. Employers looking through multiple resumes may not be able to tell the difference between each one in the mountain in front of them. Mention any internships that you’ve done, workshops you have attended, and any classes that could be helpful for you. You may feel overqualified for a job, but any experience will help you in the future.
As for those who are still struggling to find work that pays well enough, their problem does not have such an easy solution. While the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 has the potential to solve problems for people making minimum wage or less—or for those who are living off of unemployment checks—there is no way to erase the frustrations that have been caused by making people live off less than minimum wage for so long.
The question of whether or not to raise the federal minimum wage may be complicated for some. It may seem like there is no easy answer, no simple solution. Essential workers are how we are getting through this pandemic, and we owe them more than $7.25 an hour and a “thank you” when we leave the store. We owe them security and money for food and clothes, and, yes, kindness. People are living minimum wage jobs because they’re getting that security through unemployment checks. If this country is able to issue unemployment checks, we should also be able to raise the minimum wage and meet people where they are.
1. Duffy, Kara. (2021, May 5). Businesses desperate for employees, prime time for students looking for summer jobs. 12 News. https://bit.ly/3vd9dbT.
2. Cooper, D. Mokhiber, Z. Zipperer, B. (2021, March 9). Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would lift the pay of 32 million workers. Economic Policy Institute. https://bit.ly/3fx7QOe.
3. Fact sheet- Raise the Wage Act of 2021. Senate. https://bit.ly/3u2ILjw.
4. Rouse, Cecilia. (2021, April 30). New data releases show the importance of government support during the pandemic. The White House. https://bit.ly/3eYYJHj.