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What minimum wage means to me

I am 56 years old, and I make $8.75 per hour. That's an improvement on my previous job, where I made just $7.60, but it's still barely enough to survive. Once I was an elementary school teacher, living comfortably with benefits. Now I can barely afford to eat or pay my bills.

Like many other Americans, the recession changed my life. I lost my home and my job. Eventually, I managed to get a job as a grocery store cashier, but not before using up the little life savings I had.

Living on minimum wage is a hopeless cycle. I can’t possibly save money to build my life again. There’s no cushion, and I’m constantly worried something could happen. If my car breaks down, I have no way of getting to work and no means of getting it fixed. I’m older now, too, which makes it scary to think I may never get out of this cycle. I never expected to be back at square one this late in life.

And it's making me sick—I can’t afford to buy health insurance with the wages I make. I won't be able to receive health insurance through my employer for another two years, and I live in a state that so far has refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. I’m left without any options—no hope and no safety net.

The current minimum wage is not livable. If the federal minimum wage were raised from $7.25 to $10.10, I wouldn’t have to worry so much. I wouldn’t have to borrow from relatives. I could save money and buy the insurance I need to stay healthy. I could pay my bills and afford to eat regularly.

It's time to give hard-working Americans a raise.

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