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Politifact VA: Minimum Wage Claims and Coronavirus Cover

Sign in front of VA employment Commission
Virginia's minimum wage will be raised to $9.50 next year, eliciting competing claims on what the effects will be. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

CRAIG: Warren, I understand you have two fact checks for us today.

WARREN: I do.

CRAIG: Let’s begin.

WARREN: OK. Our first fact check is on a statement state Sen. Scott Surovell made April 23rd, when the General Assembly met to consider Gov. Ralph Norttham’s amendments to legislation.

One of the biggest issues was the minimum wage.

This winter, the Democratic-led Assembly passed a bill to raise Virginia’s minimum wage from the lowest in the nation $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour in 2026.

The first step, to raise it to $9.50, was set to kick in at the start of next year. Northam offered a successful amendment to delay it until May 2021 to give business some recovery time from the coronavirus shutdowns.

Republicans opposed any increase - even the delayed one - saying it would hurt businesses and raise unemployment.

Surovell, a Fairfax County Democrat, disagreed. He said raising the wage could help end the recession by putting spending money in the pockets of needy people.

And he made this claim:

“The American economy is 70% consumer driven.”

CRAIG: Is he right?

WARREN: Yes. Consumer spending in each of the last four years has been 68 or 69 percent of gross domestic product - the value of all goods and services produced in the country.

It’s a little harder finding data for states. But in 2018, consumer spending in Virginia was 68 percent of the state’s GDP.

It’s reasonable for Surovell to round up to 70 percent, and we rate his statement True.

CRAIG:  OK, now your second fact-check is on Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump - and a Richmond native.

The president has been heavily criticized for not acting quickly on covid-19.

Bannon, during an April 14th appearance on the John Fredricks radio show, tried to give Trump cover.

He said the president has been guided by experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci,  director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Here’s what Bannon said:

“Fauci told us there’s nothing to worry about. That’s his quote, ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’”

Warren, is that what Fauci said?

WARREN: It’s a stretch of some qualified comments Fauci made before the shutdown.

On January 21 - one day after the first reported US infection - conservative Newsmax asked Fauchi, “We don’t have to worry about this, right.”  Here’s his answer.

“This is something, right now, the citizens of the United States should not be worried about.”

Notice he said “right now.” He urged people to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some also point to Fauchi’s comments at a White House news conference on February 21st. 

"The country as a whole, because we get asked that all the time, still remains at low risk. But when we say that, we want to underscore that this is an evolving situation…”

Note, he said it was an “evolving situation.”

Now, Bannon has ground to stand on. But he leaves out important information. Fauci, in trying to ease covid-19 worries, always stressed that the situation could change.

So we rate Bannon’s statement Half True.