ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers pushing for a raise in the minimum wage are getting some help from a coalition of religious leaders.

Derek Valcourt has more on the effort to rally support around a statewide increase.

Many church leaders say they see the devastating effects of poverty firsthand and have a moral obligation to support policies that can help.

Inside a Baltimore house of worship, political leaders like the governor joined local Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious leaders and pushed back on the argument that raising the state’s $7.25 minimum wage would cost jobs and hurt the economy.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every time we raise the minimum wage our economy has gotten stronger!” said Sen. Ben Cardin.

Their message was preaching to the choir in a church filled with anti-poverty advocates–and some people who earn minimum wage, such as Kevin Wheeler.

How difficult can it be surviving on the minimum wage?

“It’s very difficult,” Wheeler said. “It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong.”

Wheeler says his minimum wage job in the service industry makes it difficult to provide for his daughter and often leaves him with tough choices.

“Ýou don’t think about like how you’re going to thrive,” Wheeler said. “You think about how you’re going to survive, so it’s like there are times when you have to think about how you’re going to eat for the week based upon the amount of money you have coming in.”

Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake says wages haven’t kept pace with productivity or inflation.

“This is not a handout. This is about giving people what they deserve for the work that they are doing,” the mayor said.

And religious leaders say it’s their duty to advocate for those in need.

It is widely expected that Maryland’s General Assembly will raise the minimum wage over the objections of some Republicans.

Hearings on the matter are expected next week in both the House and Senate.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. already have a minimum wage higher than Maryland’s $7.25 minimum, which also happens to be the national average.

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