GREENBRIER, Ark. (KTHV) - As of January 1, ten states raised their minimum wage but Arkansas was not one of them. The Natural State is one of only four left in the country with a minimum wage less that is than the federal wage.
Arkansas' minimum wage is $6.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. There are a variety of reasons as to why a state is able to pay less than the minimum wage. Some of those exemptions include if the worker has a disability, is a full-time student, is younger than 20 years old, receives tips, or is within their first 90 consecutive days of employment.
Even though she makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, every month is a struggle for Karen Wallace.
"I got laid off so I went to work at Dollar General. That's what I could find and I went from $14 to $7.25 an hour. That's a big difference," says Wallace.
Now, Wallace says she is lucky to work 40 hours a week and can only afford the bare essentials.
"Right now, I'm lucky to bring home $200 a week. My trailer payment is $400 so that leaves me $400 a month to pay electric, water, buy groceries and gas," says Wallace.
A bill being introduced in this legislative session would raise Arkansas' wage to $8.25 an hour. That's a wage increase that Rep. Butch Wilkins, D- District 74, says hard-working Arkansans need.
"I feel like our workers deserve it. I feel like our families deserve it and it's something that I've thought long and hard about," Wilkins explains. "I know it's going to be a struggle to get through this legislative session but I intend to try."
The increase would mean an additional $40 a week for Wallace; that's money she says could go a long way.
"Right now, you're lucky to buy a tank of gas and pay a bill, too," explains Wallace. "Or you have to delay a bill because you don't have that extra forty dollars so forty dollars would be better than nothing. With forty dollars extra, even if you only saw thirty of it, that's thirty more than you had."
Rep. Wilkins says he voted against a minimum wage increase in 2009 because of the state of the economy. Now, he feels Arkansas is in a better place economically and could handle the increase. He says he plans to file the bill early before the legislature convenes on the 14th.
If the bill does pass, the new minimum wage would be enacted on July 1 of this year. If the bill is passed, Wilkins said employers would be required to pay the minimum of $8.25, with no exceptions.
Minimum Wage Q&A