Delaware’s minimum wage will increase from $9.25 to $10.50 per hour starting in January.
In June, lawmakers passed a bill to raise the minimum wage by more than $1 each year until it reaches $15 an hour by 2025:
- $10.50 by 2022
- $11.75 by 2023
- $13.25 by 2024
- $15 by 2025
The $10.50 minimum wage law goes into effect on Jan. 1.
Twenty other states are also increasing their minimum wage next year.
Eight of them — Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia — are gradually raising their minimum wage to $15 over the next four years, like Delaware. California and New York are taking similar steps, depending on employer size and location.
The Delaware Department of Labor estimates that 55,000 people in the state make $10 an hour or less.
Business owners have had mixed reactions in Delaware. Some support a $15 minimum wage, arguing that it increases consumer spending when the economy needs a post-pandemic boost, on top of improving worker morale and customer service.
But others, such as the Delaware Restaurant Association, which aggressively lobbied against a $15 minimum wage, argue that businesses won’t be able to afford that amount after struggling through the pandemic.
Restaurants were among 4,000 local businesses that received more than $200 million in state-funded loans and grants to keep them afloat the pandemic, on top of millions more in federal aid via the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Paycheck Protection Program.
Restaurants won’t be severely impacted by this upcoming increase because most restaurants appear to already be paying at least that amount, according to Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association. She said they may be more impacted when the minimum wage is further raised in future years.
The Delaware Restaurant Association conducted a survey in August that found all restaurants who responded had increased wages in 2021, and 55% said they increased wages more than 10%, according to Leishman.
“That (the wage increase) largely is not having an effect on our industry, because we are paying those wages now because of the severe labor shortage,” Leishman said. “I can’t say what’s going to happen in three years.”
Kristen Deptula, owner of the Canalside Inn in Rehoboth Beach, pays her employees $15 an hour or more depending on their experience.
“it’s better for the economy, it’s better for our area,” Deptula said. “People are putting money back in locally because they can afford to have dinner down the street versus not being able to spend money. … It benefits the customer if the employees are happier. You’ll see better customer service.”
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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.