ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — The Howard County Council has passed a bill that would boost the county’s minimum wage to $16 an hour over the next few years.

During their meeting Monday, council members voted 4-1 in favor of the measure to surpass the statewide minimum wage rate, which is scheduled to increase to $14 by 2024 and slightly less for smaller employers.

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County Executive Calvin Ball has 10 days to sign the legislation, which would become law roughly two months after it receives his signature.

The current minimum wage in Howard County is $11.75 an hour, the same as Maryland’s.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Councilwoman Christiana Rigby, said the legislation’s passage means that more families will no longer have to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.

“This legislation is a strong step toward a more equitable and livable wage for working families in Howard County,” Councilwoman Rigby said.

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The Maryland Center for Economic Policy estimates the bill will benefit one in four workers in Howard County, or roughly 40,000 employees.

Under the legislation, minimum wage would increase incrementally over the next four years based on the size of their employer and whether they work for Howard County’s government.

Below is the schedule for the wage increases outlined in the legislation:

Employers

  • $14 an hour effective April 1, 2022
  • $15 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2023
  • $16 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2025

Small Employers

  • $13 an hour effective April 1, 2022
  • $14 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2023
  • $15 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2024
  • $16 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2026

Howard County

  • $15 an hour effective July 1, 2022
  • $16 an hour effective July 1, 2024

To put those numbers in perspective, Maryland’s minimum wage will increase to $12.50 in 2022 and $12.20 for smaller employers. Those figures will go up to $13.25 and $12,80 in 2023, and $14 and $13.40 in 2024.

Councilmember Opel Jones, the bill’s co-sponsor, said the legislation will provide much-needed relief to thousands of low-wage workers, many of them minorities.

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“Leading and legislating through an equitable lens by not delaying economic justice and prosperity for one out of four families who may struggle to provide adequate housing, proper clothing, and food for their families is paramount,” Jones said.

CBS Baltimore Staff