Our nation has slowly, but steadily recovered from the recession, but more can be done to help American families still facing unemployment. Congress should take action to increase the minimum wage, extend emergency unemployment insurance, and finally focus on legislation that will create jobs – the real priorities of the American people.
Ensuring Everyone Gets a Fair Shot
Economic inequality has reached a point we have not seen since the 1920s, making it ever more difficult for hardworking Americans to get ahead. We must help these families now by giving them the tools they need to succeed and enacting policies that will expand job creation. In today’s economy, the rich are getting richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the poor are getting poorer. Parents today are working two and three jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. We can do better for hardworking Americans.
Today, someone working full-time at minimum wage earns only $14,500 per year – not enough to lift themselves and just one child above the poverty line. If the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be $10.74 today, more than three dollars more than the current wage. I support the President's plan to raise the minimum wage, and I'm proud to cosponsor H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. H.R. 1010 would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to:
- $8.20 an hour on the first day of the third month after the enactment of this Act;
- $9.15 an hour after one year;
- $10.10 an hour after two years and ;
- The amount determined by the Secretary of Labor (based on increases in the Consumer Price Index) after three years, and annually thereafter.
Further, H.R. 1010 would increase the federal minimum wage for tipped employees to $3.00 an hour for one year on the first day of the third month after the enactment of this Act.
Finally, H.R. 1010 would provide a formula for subsequent annual adjustments of the wage increase to ensure that it remains equal to 70% of the wage in effect under FLSA for other employees and direct the Secretary of Labor, 60 days before any increase in the minimum wage, to publish it in the Federal Register and on the Department of Labor's website.
I also support efforts to raise Maryland's state minimum wage to $10.10, as well as the Preisdent's recent executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working for government contractors – an idea I joined with the Congressional Progressive Caucus in proposing last year. People who work full time should never have to raise their families in poverty, and it's time for Congress to fix that.
Job Creation in Maryland
Throughout the nation, shipping will provide thousands of job opportunities. In my District, and all across Maryland, we must be ready to seize those opportunities. I introduced and was pleased that more than two-thirds of my colleagues voted to pass H.R. 2651, the Maritime Workforce Development Act, to create a recruitment, training, and student loan program to attract the next generation of workers to jobs in the maritime industry.
Many of the men and women who comprise our maritime industry will soon be entering retirement, and it is important that we have the tools and resources in place to bring in the next generation of mariners. The Maritime Workforce Development Act seeks to improve the current system and ensure that individuals seeking to enter or advance in the maritime field are able to afford tuition for training programs.
Mariners rarely enroll in traditional 2- or 4-year educational programs, instead taking frequent, multi-week courses designed to certify them for specific new qualifications. The unique structure of these programs is not easily served by existing loan programs, leaving many unable to afford the costly tuition.
The Maritime Workforce Development Act would authorize $60 million over six years to create a maritime-focused student loan program through which individuals can receive up to $60,000 in loans over the course of their lifetime. Recipients of the loans would be required to maintain satisfactory progress and be required to repay their loans within ten years. Additionally, the bill would authorize $60 million over six years to enable the Department of Transportation to award grants to maritime training institutions for mariner recruitment, training, and retention.
The maritime industry is an essential component of our nation’s commerce and economy, and we cannot ignore the growing threat of a shortage in qualified maritime labor. We cannot allow this problem to continue to grow as a result of individuals being denied access to maritime training due to income levels, and H.R. 2651 takes the first step in ensuring that we don’t.
To protect those Americans who have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, I have repeatedly supported extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
Our friends and families throughout the nation are still suffering from this economic downturn. These benefits average $1,166 per month – barely enough to cover the costs of housing, food, healthcare, and childcare. Congress has never before failed to extend support to Americans looking for work with unemployment still so high. More than 2 million Americans have lost benefits already, and failing to renew benefits could cost our economy 200,000 jobs.
I'm fighting to return these benefits to our friends and neighbors who are still struggling against a tough economy.
More on Economy
Washington, D.C. (Apr. 4, 2017)—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) joined Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to introduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by allowing women to challenge pay discrimination and hold employers accountable. U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced the companion legislation in the Senate.
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 7, 2016)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Senator Ben Cardin, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. John Sarbanes, and Rep. Donna Edwards (all D-MD) sent a letter urging Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray to follow Maryland’s lead to develop a final rule that will protect consumers from predatory lenders.
Baltimore, MD (July 19, 2016) – Today, Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Sarbanes (both D-MD) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawling announced a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the City of Baltimore to increase access to solar energy for low-income households.
Washington, D.C. (Dec. 3, 2015) — Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a staff report on the benefits of the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC) for Maryland families.
Congressman Cummings spoke on the House floor today in opposition to the Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act, which would eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect minority consumers from being charged abusive and predatory interest rates.