This week in Homebase News we cover FCC’s authorization of $121 million to bring rural businesses broadband internet, a report on Amazon’s impact on small business online sales, the status of the federal minimum wage bill, and more. Read below to get the details on these stories and other happenings involving local businesses and hourly workers.

Senate All But Kills Federal Minimum Wage Increase Bill

Officials have confirmed that the Senate will not consider a bill to raise the federal minimum wage

A spokesperson for Sen. Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, said the committee will not consider the Raise the Wage Act, which aims to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. 

The announcement comes after the bill was approved by 231 members of the House and opposed by 199. While the opposition was expected, the Senate’s decision to not consider the bill ends a years-long campaign to raise the minimum wage. 

“Even the Chamber of Commerce acknowledges that it’s time to raise the federal minimum wage,” Conti told Vox. “[Alexander] may be retiring next year and happy to ride that time out without doing anything productive, but other members of the Senate don’t have quite the comfort level to be as complacent as he is.”

FCC Expands Rural Broadband to Help Small Businesses

The FCC authorized $121 million in funding to bring broadband service to 36,759 “rural homes and businesses in 16 states” over a span of 10 years. 

The approval is part of the Connect America Fund Phase II auction, which last year allotted almost $1.5 billion to setting up “more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses” with broadband internet over the next decade. It is the fourth wave of support, and brings the total authorized amount to over $924 million. 

“As we continue to authorize funds to expand broadband in rural America, I am excited to see the benefits for rural residents who live all across the country, from tribal lands in Wyoming to mountain communities in Appalachia, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest, and from the Texas Panhandle to northern Minnesota,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. 

Report: Amazon Hurting Small Businesses’ Online Sales

A recent report released by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance revealed that small businesses are facing several major challenges selling online, including Amazon’s fierce online marketplace presence. 

Three-quarters of the respondents said Amazon competition (including Amazon Marketplace where other companies sell their products) is their top challenge. According to the report, 93% of small businesses feel that Amazon has negatively impacted their business, with over half of the respondents adding that the impact was “significant.” 

Respondents provided factors that make it hard to sell on Amazon, and the top responses included “the size of the fees for selling on Marketplace” (60%), “competition from other third-party sellers” (55%), and “Amazon sells the same products and competes against me.” 

New Restaurant Review App Puts Dishes First

A startup site is working to fill the gap users of Yelp or Google reviews often face when looking for information on actual menu items. 

Simmer is a review platform that prioritizes reviews on the quality of the specific dishes instead of the restaurant itself. Founders Richard Wu and Vaibhav Verma created the app to give users the ability to make a better-informed decision when ordering menu items. 

Wu and Verma believe the standard user reviews that give an oversight of the restaurant as a whole don’t help potential patrons at all when it comes to deciding what to order. 

“Our team at Simmer has crowdsourced reviews all over the internet per dish — from blog posts to social media comments — and ran the content through a sentiment analyzer to provide you a comprehensive rating out of 5 stars,” the description of the app reads. 

eBay Names Small Business of the Year

eBay recently awarded More Than Words, a social enterprise aimed at empowering young people to take charge of a business, the title of #1 Small Business of the Year

The youth-run business beat out more than 1,600 businesses who were considered for eBay’s 2019 Shine Awards. More Than Words gives youth who are in foster care, homeless, or out of school a paying job selling books. 

More than four million donated books are sourced each year, and $3.35 million is earned in gross sales annually. Young adults use the work learn important skills such as customer service, leadership, and inventory management. 

“I know what it’s like to be involved with the courts, to have family locked up, and to nearly be locked up myself,” program graduate Mehki Jordan said as he accepted the award at eBay Open in Las Vegas. “This job is a great stepping stone for anyone who wants to build a career, to get things together in their personal life. At More Than Words, you’re part of a good thing, you feel like you have a purpose in the world, and you’re part of building something so that other youth can follow and have the same experience.”

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