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Montgomery County Council Approves Minimum Wage Increase to $15 Per Hour

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a plan to raise the minimum wage in the County to $15.

The Council approved Bill 28-17 which will increase the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour on July 1, 2021 for large employers with 51 or more employees. Mid-sized employers with between 11 and 50 employees must raise wages to at least $15 per hour on July 1, 2023. Small employers with 10 or fewer employers must pay workers $15 per hour on July 1, 2024.

The bill was sponsored by At-Large Councilmember Marc Elrich, and co-sponsored by Councilmembers George Leventhal (At-Large), Hans Riemer (At-Large), Tom Hucker (District 5) and Nancy Navarro (District 4).

The bill has provisions for non-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) designations and eligible service providers to raise wages to $15 per hour by July 1, 2023, unless they are considered a small employer.

In addition, Bill 28-17 provides that the minimum wage must be adjusted annually for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W), starting July 1, 2022. This bill also provides for an opportunity wage, which is equal to 85 percent of the County’s minimum wage for employees under the age of 20 for the first six months of employment.

The County’s current minimum wage is $11.50 per hour. Yesterday’s vote makes Montgomery County among the first jurisdictions in the nation to approve a $15 per hour minimum wage.

The bill now goes to County Executive Ike Leggett for his signature. Leggett has made it known that he will sign the bill.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, a candidate for County Executive in the 2018 elections, who was the lead sponsor of the bill said: “What we have done today is huge. By passing this bill we recognize that people who work deserve to earn a decent wage. Raising the minimum wage is good for families, for neighborhoods and for our schools.”

“I taught in a high-poverty school in Montgomery County for 17 years,” said Elrich, “and I saw up close the effects of poverty. Poor children live in homes where their parents are highly stressed about paying for rent, food and medical care – basic necessities of life. That stress has an enormous impact on their children, and those impacts have lasting effects.”

In January of this year, the Council voted of 5-4, for another measure to increase the minimum wage. That bill, Bill 12-16, would have extended the incremental minimum wage increases in County law to $15 by 2020 for many employees. That bill was criticized as being too much too fast, which resulted in the split vote. The scheduled increases under the old bill were based on the size of the employer. Workers whose employers had 26 or more employees would reach $15 per hour in 2020. Employers with 25 or fewer employees would reach $15 in 2022.

It was vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett on January 23. The Bill which was approved yesterday was in response to Leggett’s veto.

Councilmember Rice, who represents Germantown and the UpCounty, was one of the four Council members who voted against the earlier version of the bill. The new bill was approved by all nine members of the Council.

“Increasing the minimum wage was a very difficult decision for me,” said Councilmember Craig Rice of District 2, in a statement. “Difficult because people of color continue to be unemployed at rates higher than whites, and especially among young people of color. Extending the time businesses have to increase the wage will allow for us to double down on investments in youth employment and workforce development programs that will help mitigate the unintended consequences associated with increasing the minimum wage.”

Just prior to the vote during the Council meeting Rice said, “We need to be staunchly focused on teen-minority employment, on youth employment, and on unemployment in our communities of color throughout Montgomery County.”

“Those are issues that continue to remain today, and will continue to remain, unfortunately, into our near future,” said Rice during the meeting. “This amendment (which extended the time businesses will have to adopt the new minimum wage) allows us to ramp up the concerns we have regarding the very topics I just discussed, giving us more time to be able to devote budget resources beefing up teen employment and workforce opportunities. It really is a key component for this working for everyone.”

He challenged this other members of the Council to continue to w