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East Tennessee reacts to possibility of higher minimum wage

The President’s call to raise the minimum wage is rolled into the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID relief bill that’s expected to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives later this week.
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 11:00 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Could minimum wage increases be coming to East Tennessee? President Joe Biden’s call to raise the minimum wage is being debated now.

Secret City Exchange in Oak Ridge is a place to buy, sell and trade books and video games.

As a small business owner of the store, Stephen Echard feels the minimum wage increase benefits some but he has questioned how it would affect his business.

“I can see the long-term effects for it being positive for our community and the country, immediately I don’t know how it would affect me personally, and our business. We may have to cut hours, and definitely increase productivity to justify that $15 dollars an hour,” says Echard.

University of Tennessee Professor Don Bruce says the wage increase could possibly cost East Tennessee jobs.

If we’re going to think about a $15/hr. minimum wage, we have to also think about the possibility of price increases, reductions in job availabilities and employment opportunities. That’s not to say those things aren’t worth the trade off, it’s just to say we need to consider them,” shared Bruce.

The Congressional Budget Office says the plan for increasing minimum wage clearly benefits low-income workers who will be able to keep their jobs, but says the wage hike would drive up long-term employment and prices.

The minimum wage increase is rolled into the $1.9 trillion dollar COVID relief bill that’s expected to be voted on by the U.S House of Representatives later this week.

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