GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Some state lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would significantly increase Minnesota's minimum wage.
This past week, a House committee voted to pass a measure that would raise the minimum wage from $6.15 to $10.55 an hour.
Some Republican lawmakers are skeptical of the bill and have asked how small business owners will fare when they try to meet an increased payroll. Others have questioned whether an increase in minimum wage will really lead to an increased number of available jobs, as some Democrats have claimed.
But as lawmakers debate the issue, one Minnesota mother is speaking out about how it could change her family's lives.
Jessica English has worked minimum wage jobs most her life, either in retail or with non-profit organizations. Now the mother of four has found herself homeless because she can't make enough to afford life expenses for her family.
"It's really starting to hit me that this is my life and this is my kids' life," said English.
During the week, English lives with friends and her four daughters live with her ex-husband in rural Minnesota.
"The worst part of it for me was I had to change my custody arrangements and I'm missing out on my kids' lives," she said.
On weekends, when English has her kids, she rents an inexpensive hotel room so her girls have beds to sleep in and free breakfast in the morning.
Still, her minimum wage jobs have not been enough to support them.
"It's a poverty level wage and it's called poverty for a reason," she said. "You can't pay for all of the bills at the same time so you juggle them."
She said that bills not paid on time lead to bad credit, which makes it tough to rent an apartment.
"You can borrow money from friends, family and church before it all collapses in on itself and I eventually came to that collapse this fall," she said.
Jessica knows other working families who are homeless, too. So she's encouraged that some state lawmakers are trying to increase the minimum wage.
"That would be a huge relief," she said. "I think it is a great first step. I think what we set as our minimum wage reflects our values."
English is currently using loans and grants to attend community college. She hopes to find a better paying job soon and eventually become an English teacher.
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