With the New Year starts the good news, as an estimated 40,000 Arkansans are getting a pay raise. The state’s voter-approved new minimum wage rises from $6.25 per hour to $7.50 per hour.
Nearly 66 percent of voters approved the increase by passing a state Constitutional amendment on November 4th, 2014. Those who currently earn just above the minimum will likely receive pay raises as well. The amendment also requires the minimum to rise to $8 an hour next year and to $8.50 an hour in 2017.
The minimum wage will rise in 21 states in 2015, putting it above the federal pay floor in more than half the USA and highlighting the impact of a national movement to boost the earnings of low-paid workers.
A bill, backed by President Obama, to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour is stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition. The increases will lift the hourly wages of 2.4 million workers by up to $1 to an average of $8 and a high of $9.15, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The federal hourly minimum is $7.25.
Another 1.9 million workers are expected to benefit from a higher pay scale. The post-Christmas gifts will pump about $1.5 billion into the U.S. economy because low-wage workers tend to spend most of their paychecks.
Arkansas was one of four of the states, along with Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota that approved ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage. Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the retail giant will not raise prices because it “can absorb these costs.”