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(V. I. Consortium) ST. THOMAS — Come June 1, the minimum wage in the U.S. Virgin Islands will rise from $8.35 per hour to 9.50 per hour, Department of Labor reminded in a release today. The increase is made possible through legislation whose chief sponsor was Senator Jean Forde, which was signed into law by Governor Kenneth Mapp in March 2016.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, state governments have the right to set a higher minimum wage than the current federal minimum wage rate. Roughly 29 states, including California, Florida, New York and New Jersey have enacted legislation increasing their state’s minimum wage. Studies have shown that increasing the minimum wage does not have a negative effect on small business, as some have claimed, and in fact contributes to an increase in the overall health of local economies.

“This is a tremendous victory for working people, as the plain fact is that the minimum wage of $7.25 is simply not enough to live on,” said Mr. Forde when the bill was signed into law. “It is heartbreaking to see people going out and working hard every day, only to find that their paychecks cannot meet even their most basic needs.”

The first increase from $7.25 to $8.35 took effect June of last year; the last increase — from $9.50 to $10.50 — will take effect in 2018, according to the law. Additionally, the tourist service industry and restaurant workers who are tipped employees must be compensated at a rate of not less than 40 percent of the prevailing minimum wage.

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