Mississippi restaurant owners looking to lawmakers to increase minimum wage

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Some Mississippi lawmakers are fighting to raise the minimum wage. This comes after Gov. Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) announced the state would opt out of additional federal unemployment benefits in June 2021.

One local business owner said they have experienced struggles during the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re ready to bounce back. However, they’re still concerned about employing workers.

Jackson chef Nick Wallace said a year ago, he was trying to make ends meet in his catering business.

“It was only breaking even, and a lot of the events, we were losing money,” he explained.

Mississippi State Representative Zakiya Summers (D-District 68) is one of the lawmakers who is leading the efforts to raise the minimum wage to $10 for part-time workers and $15 for full-time workers in a span of four years. The Mississippi Minimum Wage Law Bill would also allow tipped workers to receive an increase over the same time frame.

“I am a little concerned with finding employees,” said Wallace.

The push to boost the minimum wage re-introduced after the governor’s decision to opt out of additional federal unemployment benefits. The move received pushback from Democrats.

“We managed to survive through that, but barely. Now since a lot of the relief, a lot of numbers better with pandemic, starting to see a lot of that comeback,” said Wallace.

For small business owners such as Wallace, coming to Jackson at the early age of nine was a waking dream. Starting in the culinary world as a dishwasher, he worked his way up at several restaurants in the heart of downtown Jackson.

“I grew up in a rural area in Edwards and coming to Jackson was one of the next best things. It was a big city experience with what my sister got,” he stated.

Wallace is hoping to continue sharing fruits of his labor doing what he loves.

“That urgency I don’t believe is all there just yet. I think it’s probably going to take another month. I know there’s a lot of people eager to get out to it, to get back and be a part of something that has a great story attached to it.”

The bill would create Mississippi’s first minimum wage law, as the state doesn’t have a minimum wage. The last time Mississippi increased its minimum wage was in 2008.

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