Democratic candidate Joe Biden during the final presidential debate reaffirmed his support for increasing the minimum wage nationwide to $15 per hour, while President Donald Trump said he would "consider it to an extent" but likely to keep it as a state option.
Asked whether he believes it is the right time to ask struggling small business owners to raise the minimum wage, Biden replied that he would like to see federal dollars used to ease their hardships.
"We're going to have to bail them out too," he told moderator Kristen Welker from NBC. "We should be bailing them out now, these small businesses, We've got one in six of them going under. They're not going to be able to make it back."
Trump then challenged Biden. "He said we have to help our small businesses, by raising the minimum wage?" Trump asked. "That's not helping."
"I think it should be a state option," Trump said of setting minimum wage laws. "Alabama is different than New York, New York is different from Vermont, every state is different. It's very important. We have to help our small business, how are you helping small businesses when you're forcing wages? What's going to happen and what's been proven to happen is when you do that, these small businesses fire many of their employees."
"I would consider it to an extent, but not to the level that would put all these businesses out of business," Trump replied. "It should be a state option. I know different places, the rules are different. In some places $15 is not so bad. In other places, $15 would be ruinous."
Biden said that essential workers deserve a $15 minimum wage. He also claimed that the notion that increasing the minimum wage will force businesses to go out of business is but an "old saw" supported by no evidence at all.
The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25. It serves as a floor beneath which no state's minimum wage can fall, with exceptions for some workers, such as those whose income largely depends on tips. States are free to set a minimum wage higher than the federal standard.
Biden's campaign website states that the former vice president "firmly believes all Americans are owed a raise" and that it's "well past time" to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 across the country.
"Fifteen dollars should be a minimum wage in the United States of America. Period," Biden said earlier this month while campaigning in Florida.