The local debate from both sides over a new proposal to increase the federal minimum wage

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — One element of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The president admits that part of his plan may not survive, but it’s raising the issue of how much, or how little, people earn.

Biden said increasing the wage to $15 per hour will help people, especially in the pandemic.

“The cost of living back in the day you could survive on $7.25 but you can’t do that now,” said Greenville student and restaurant employee Lauren Hembree.

Biden has the wage increase in his 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill. Lawmakers said it could help the economy and workers but it could also hurt employers.

“We all support higher wages, but a $15 federal minimum wage would be counterproductive to this goal,” said Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.

“When everyone is making more money and spending more money, what it does is create a lot more customers,” said Chris Murphy, the Democratic Senator from Connecticut.

Some people in Greenville believe the higher wage would help those facing financial hardships.

“People are struggling, especially during COVID times. It would definitely help if the minimum wage was higher,” said Hembree.

Kennis Wilkins is a five-time Democratic National Convention delegate from North Carolina. He said the minimum wage should be increased, but maybe not to $15.

“I am a small business owner in the healthcare industry, and I would not be able to sustain that. We only make that per hour ourselves, so we could not pay $15 an hour to employees and keep the business open,” said Wilkins.

He believes a higher minimum wage doesn’t just put money into people’s pockets.

“I’m an advocate of paying people more so they can do more, have more, send their children to college and so they can get decent things families need in this economy,” said Wilkins.

Some lawmakers, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are calling for a separate minimum wage measure, spreading the increase over five years.

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