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Collins: Minimum wage increase should be separate from COVID-19 relief package

Collins: Minimum wage increase should be separate from COVID-19 relief package
© Greg Nash

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE (Maine), a key Republican moderate, said Monday that President Biden and Democratic lawmakers should set aside a proposal to increase the minimum wage from a new COVID-19 relief proposal.

She was one of more than a dozen senators who participated on a conference call with National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden makes inroads with progressives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Republicans squeeze Biden with 0 billion COVID-19 relief alternative Biden's push for stimulus checks sparks income eligibility debate MORE on Sunday to discuss President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan.

Biden's proposed package would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than doubling the current rate of $7.25 an hour. 

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Collins, a leader of the bipartisan group, said Monday that she supports raising the minimum wage but says it should be done separately from the new proposed COVID-19 relief package.

“This package should focus solely on the persistent pandemic. It should not be used as the vehicle for a wish list that certain Democrats have. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t think there should be an increase in the minimum wage. There should be. But that should be considered separately so we can debate what the right amount,” she said.

She said raising the minimum wage “has nothing to do with COVID.”

Collins said she doesn’t have a particular figure in mind for the appropriate total cost of the next relief package but she cautioned the package's price tag “is a big question.”

She argued that as much as $1.8 trillion in unspent funds might be left over from the five coronavirus relief bills signed into law last year and could be reallocated for a new package.

“There still appears to be considerable money left as a result of the previous five packages,” she said.

She said the bipartisan group is united on providing more money for vaccine production and distribution and funding people to administer the vaccine.

“The rural hospitals are taking a loss each time they give a vaccination, which shouldn’t be,” she said. “They’re also desperate for more supply.”