JUST A MONTH AGO, the U.S. House of Representatives was trumpeting its vote to increase the minimum wage, hailing it as a symbol of new leadership in Congress.

But the bill has stalled in the Senate, and Republicans vow it's not going to happen. They've attached to the bill $8 billion in tax breaks for businesses.

This is disappointing. Especially since one of the biggest arguments against raising the minimum wage - that it reduces the number of jobs available to entry-level workers -is collapsing under the weight of increasing evidence that this no longer is true.

But even more disappointing than the Senate's failure to increase the wage that hasn't been touched in a decade is the suggestion by some Republicans that rather than raise the wage, Congress should instead increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Raising the tax credit for the working poor is a fine idea, but doing it instead of a minimum-wage hike is unfair; not all workers are eligible for the EITC.

Fortunately, we live in a city where it's not only easy for workers to find out if they're eligible, but where there is a network of people waiting to help workers take advantage of it, and get hundreds or thousands of dollars of refunds for which they're eligible.

This year, the Campaign for Working families has 17 sites where trained people will help workers do their taxes for free, and make sure they get everything back that's coming to them. Find out more at 215-686-2599 or www. phillyfreetaxes.org *