The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for more than a decade, and since Louisiana doesn’t have a state minimum wage of its own and prohibits local governments from setting a wage floor in line with local costs of living, the state’s low-wage workers are left in the lurch. As a new blog post by EPI’s Elise Gould explains, workers can’t rely on a growing economy alone to lift wages at the bottom of the pay scale. Instead, state or federal policymakers need to actively increase the minimum wage to ensure that low-wage workers earn enough to meet their needs.
State-level increases are an improvement, but stronger minimum wage policy is needed, particularly for workers in states that continue to rely on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which hasn’t budged in over 10 years. Furthermore, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would disproportionately raise pay for women. … Raising the federal minimum wage would also disproportionately benefit black workers because they are overrepresented among low-wage workers and are less likely to live in states or localities that have passed a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum wage.
The U.S. Economy isn’t immune to coronavirus
China’s economy, which relies heavily on manufacturing, was hit hard by that nation’s outbreak of the coronavirus, seeing a prolonged slowdown as a result of efforts to contain the virus. As cases of the virus increase in America, we can expect our own economy to contract, too. But as Austan Goolsbee writes in the New York Times, characteristics that make the U.S. economy different from the Chinese economy — such as the larger economy significance of the travel and leisure industries and the service sector — may also make America more vulnerable to the economic effects of an epidemic.
Consider travel. The average American takes three flights a year; the average Chinese person less than half a flight. And the epidemiological disaster of the Diamond Princess has persuaded many people to hold off on cruises. That cruise ship stigma alone potentially affects about 3.5 percent of the United States, which has about 11.5 million passengers each year, compared with only 0.17 percent of China, which has about 2.3 million passengers.
For rural workers, staying home is not an option
Epidemics aren’t only a problem for urban areas: Though rural populations are less dense, much of rural America’s economic activity takes place where people congregate, making health professionals’ warnings to stay home just as significant in the country as in the city and suburbs. But for many rural Americans, heeding those warnings may not be an economically feasible option. Olugbenga Ajilore and Zoe Willingham of the Center for American Progress have more on how rural economies aren’t set up for extended quarantines.
For many who live in rural areas, including many communities of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities, these factors make it impossible to work remotely. Almost one-third of rural households lack internet at home. Though many conflate the agriculture sector with the entire rural economy, the service sector employs the largest number of workers in rural counties, and many of those are in lower-paid occupations in the education, health, and food service sectors. More likely than not, these workers cannot work remotely—nor can they afford to miss work. Because of the economy that rural Americans face, they do not have the capacity to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 and continue to make a living.
When school is closed, hungry students still need to eat
With the possibility of temporary school closures looming in Louisiana, families with children may face an additional challenge: the absence of school lunch. Nearly 427,000 students received free and reduced lunch in the state in 2018, and for many families school meals are an essential source of nutritious food for growing children. Bettina Elias Siegel reports in Civil Eats on how state and federal government can help mitigate the effects of missing lunches on free and reduced lunch families.
At the top of (the Food Research and Action Center’s Crystal) FitzSimons’s wish list would be allowing children to have access to multiple non-perishable meals if needed. “If a child is facing a two-week school closure, it would be great if USDA not only waives the congregate feeding requirement but also allows schools to say, ‘Here’s 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches that you can take with you and help carry you through.’ That would go a long way,” says FitzSimons. “Because in situations like this, it’s always the low-income people who get hurt first.”
Number of the Day
4,318,000 – Number of people in America working part time in February, 2020, despite seeking full time work (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)