$15 an hour minimum wage: Biden pushes for urgent increase amid COVID-19 pandemic

During his announcement of the "American Rescue Plan," President-elect Joe Biden pushed for the minimum wage in the United States to be raised to at least $15 an hour.

After laying out his plans to provide supplemental funding for unemployed families as well as relief for small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the president-elect said that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would help lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

"Direct cash payments, extended unemployment insurance, rent relief, food assistance, keeping essential frontline workers on the job, aid to small businesses: These are the key elements to the American Rescue Plan that will lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half," Biden said during his Thursday speech.

"That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty if we move. Our plan will reduce poverty in the Black community by one third, reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost 40%. And includes much more, like an increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour," Biden said. "People tell me that’s going to be hard to pay. Florida just passed it, as divided as that state is, they just passed it. The rest of the country is ready to move as well."

Biden stressed that no person working 40 hours a week should be living "below the poverty line."

"That’s what it means, if you work for less than $15 an hour and work 40 hours a week, you’re living in poverty," he said.

FILE - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he lays out his plan for combating the coronavirus and jump-starting the nation’s economy at the Queen theater January 14, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware.

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Additionally, Biden’s rescue plan includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill, would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.

The president-elect’s relief bill would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic. Aides said Biden will make the case that the additional spending and borrowing is necessary to prevent the economy from sliding into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable.

Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably linked with controlling the coronavirus."Our work begins with getting COVID under control," he declared in his 2020 election victory speech. "We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments until we get it under control."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.