U.S. Representative Chet Edwards recently announced that 1.7 million Texans will benefit when the minimum wage increases from $5.15 to $5.85 an hour, which became effective July 24.

It has been 10 years since American workers have seen an increase in the federal minimum wage.

In May, the new Congress passed, and the president signed into law, legislation increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 by 2009.

Coupled with the minimum wage increase was $4.8 billion in small business tax cuts to help offset costs for businesses.

“I believe an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay and this needed increase rewards work, not welfare. It’s been 10 years since minimum wage workers received a pay raise, the longest time period without an increase since the minimum wage was enacted in 1938. In that time, rising consumer costs have hit low-wage workers especially hard as the purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted to its lowest level in more than half a century leaving millions of families behind. This increase is long overdue,” said Edwards.

One in six US. workers directly affected by the minimum wage increase lives in Texas, is 20 or older and work full-time, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

In Texas, 863,000 workers will see a direct increase in their hourly pay and 1.7 million workers overall would benefit from the raise over the next two years.

For a full-time minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week, an increase from $5.15 to $5.85 means an additional $1,344 more per year.

The increase of $2.10 an hour to $7.25 by 2009 means an additional $4,400 a year to meet critical needs.

On average, that’s 15 months of groceries, over two years of health care, 19 months of utilities or 20 months of child care.

Nationwide, nearly 13 million hard-working Americans will benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“This modest down payment is the first step of a broader American agenda for families who work for a living, including making college more affordable, reducing energy costs, tax breaks for middle and low-income Americans, record increases in veterans’ health care and expanding children’s health coverage - all in a fiscally responsible budget,” said Edwards.

At $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker has brought home $10,712 a year - barely above the federal poverty level for one person and nearly $6,000 below the poverty level for a family of three.

Nearly half of low-wage workers in families with children are the sole breadwinner for their household.

This raise will help 7.4 million women and 3.3 million parents and 6 million children will see their parents’ income rise.

Some 50,000 military families will also benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour.

“The bottom line is that Americans who work in full-time jobs should not be living in poverty in the United States of America,” said Edwards.