WASHINGTON, DC - For the first time in a decade, the United States Senate today voted to increase the minimum wage over the next two years from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. The increase was included in an appropriations spending bill which Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) supported.

"This minimum wage hike is sorely needed and long overdue," stated Reed. "It has been a decade since the last increase in the minimum wage. Since then, inflation has not only wiped out that pay increase but reduced the real value of the minimum wage to its lowest level in half a century. At a time when many families are being financially squeezed on all sides, this is the least that we can do to help ease the financial burden on those who need some relief."

At the federal level, the minimum wage was last increased in 1997 when it was raised to $5.15. That level in today's economy is more than $4 below the minimum wage rate in 1968 in real dollars. Studies have shown that this level would not bring a single parent with one child above the poverty line, even if the parent works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.

Reed added, "Working men and women deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and certainly deserve to be out of poverty. Raising the minimum wage will make a real difference for working families, putting hundreds of much-needed additional dollars in their pockets each year."

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 6.6 million workers would benefit directly from an increase from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. An additional 8.3 million workers earning somewhat more than $7.25 per hour could gain indirectly from "spillover benefits" of the minimum wage increase.

"The minimum wage is an important policy tool that lets low-income families lift themselves out of financial hardship," stated Reed. "I am pleased that the Senate has taken this important step to help millions of American families."