But we canít stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest dayís work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief weíve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. Thatís wrong. Thatís why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Tonight, letís declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldnít have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So hereís an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: letís tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
Tonight, letís also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, itís virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.
Letís offer incentives to companies that hire Americans whoíve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Letís put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. Weíll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. Weíll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And weíll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood Ė because what makes you a man isnít the ability to conceive a child; itís having the courage to raise one.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.