Minimum wage rises

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The federal minimum wage rose from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour beginning Thursday.

The increase is part of legislation approved last year, which raises the minimum wage over two years to eventually reach $7.25 per hour by July 2009.

"Americans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to earn enough to provide for their families," said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon) in a press release.

"For ten years, the minimum wage was frozen at $5.15 an hour, a wage far too low to provide for the needs of a family, as gas prices, food costs and health insurance costs continued to rise," added Boucher.

Boucher said that raising the minimum wage to $7.25 would provide an additional $4,400 per year for families of minimum wage workers.

The increase will benefit more than 12 million workers nationwide, including nearly 500,000 workers in Virginia. Nationwide, 3.1 million parents will benefit from the increase, according to information from Boucher's office.