WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama proposed increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to 9 dollars an hour. But House and Senate Democrats say even that's not enough.
Americans who work full-time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour earn just $15,000 in a year. For a family of three, that's $3,000 below the poverty line.
"There are people who are really suffering and who fill those minimum wage jobs. I find the ones I know have a very difficult time making ends meet and have to make really hard choices about medicine for their kid or food," said John Bonzagni of West Springfield.
"It's tough with school, even as a teen, with a car, insurance. I can't even imagine what it's like for families of four, five," said Ivanna Melnichuk of Agawam.
That's why House and Senate Democrats are proposing the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. It would increase the minimum wage and make annual increases based on inflation.
The Massachusetts minimum wage is already 75 cents more than the federal minimum wage. If it increased from $8 an hour to $10.10 an hour, full time workers would earn an extra $4,000 a year.
Democrats say it would shift millions of American workers above the poverty line, but Republicans fear it will hurt employers in a recovering economy.
"Living week to week in a check is difficult. Everything is expensive these days. However I do think businesses are going to struggle on their end trying to afford their employees," said Kristin Joyal of Westfield.
Others argue the economy will never get stronger if hard-working Americans don't have money to spend.
"When people work hard they need to get paid for it. They need to be out of the poverty level. It's sad when you can work and work hard and still have to get services and everything," said Cynthia Boutot of Chicopee.
And it's been more than 20 years since tipped minimum wage workers saw a raise; the bill would increase their hourly rate from $2.13 to $5.08.