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Idaho and 19 other states' minimum wages have stayed at $7.25 since 2009

Someone who works fulltime at the minimum wage will earn just more than $15,000 annually.

BOISE, Idaho — The official end of the coronavirus may be months away, but dwindling case numbers and a growing number of Idahoans being vaccinated have helped fuel an economic recovery in the Treasure Valley that has left many businesses searching for employees.

Businesses in the Treasure Valley, ranging from restaurants to yard and garden centers and senior care facilities, are struggling to find new employees as business rebounds.

Some are pointing to the extra $300 in unemployment benefits that President Joe Biden and Congress extended until September as to why fewer people are working. Lawmakers in Montana went as far as to end the state's participation in the extra unemployment benefits program in an attempt to address the state's worker shortage.

The United States Chamber of Commerce also recommended ending the program since it is incentivizing some not to find new work. It also found that one in four people are now making more money from unemployment benefits and the $300 bonus than they did before the pandemic.

President Biden pushed back on the suggestion, saying that there are other economic factors that contributing to short staffing, such as school closures and fewer childcare or assisted living options. Safety concerns over low vaccination rates and relaxed masking protocols could also prompt some to avoid putting themselves around un-vaccinated people or those who do not wear a mask.

Another possibility to the staff shortage many businesses are facing is that service industry employees who were furloughed found a new, more stable job or started on a new career path.

At the top and end of the laundry list of possible reasons contributing to why also has to do with money, which prompted a viewer of The 208 to mention the Gem State's low minimum wage.

"I just love that people blame the unemployment stimulus instead of hourly wages, especially since Idaho's minimum wage hasn't increased since 2009, if I remember right?" they asked.

The Gem State's legislature set Idaho's first minimum wage at $1 per hour in 1963. Before taxes, someone working at that wage would earn $160 a month.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their latest numbers from 2020, there were 479,000 Idahoans being paid an hourly wage. Of those, 7,000 or 1.4% of them were paid minimum wage or less.

In the last year of the pandemic, median single-family home prices jumped 27% in Ada County and rent in Boise has grown by 15%.

In 2009, the federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 and has not since been changed on a federal level. Idaho and 19 other states have also left the minimum wage at $7.25.

Someone working 40-hours a week at the minimum wage would take home a gross weekly pay of $290 for a total of $1,160 a month and just over $15,000 annually.

With the unemployment benefits, someone who made $7.25 an hour could collect up to $14.75 an hour, on the low-end of the spectrum. The maximum someone in Idaho can receive in unemployment benefits is $463. To beat that, they would have to make more than $11.57 an hour to bring that much home.

With President Biden's $300 weekly bonus, some may receive a maximum of $763 a week, which is nearly $20 per hour.

Idaho Governor Brad Little reinstated the requirement that people on unemployment must be actively searching for a job.

In the last five years alone, 26 states around the nation have increased their minimum wage. Of those, 17 were done through their state legislature and nine others were done by voter initiative.

Oregon, Idaho's neighbor and bad influence of sorts, is about to raise its minimum wage to $12.75 and Washington's is currently at $13.69.

The Gem State has seen several attempts at voter ballot initiatives to increase the state's minimum wage fail in the past, including one in 2019 that would have increased it to $12 per hour. It failed to make it onto the 2020 general election ballot.

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