Measures intended to boost the state’s economy by increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next two years and to create a family leave plan to help family caregivers were advanced on Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Labor.
Backers of the bills say both measures address critical issues for working families.
SB2291 and SB2990 now go before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for further consideration.
Senate Bill 2291  would increase the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour in 2019 and $15 per hour in 2020. The measure would eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, and provide automatic cost-of-living increases. Testimony in favor of the bill support Hawai‘i workers by providing an adequate hourly wage to reflect the state’s high cost of living.
Senate Bill 2990  would establish a paid family leave program and lay the groundwork to implement a framework of laws and policies so that all employees can access leave benefits during times when they need to provide care for a family member. It would also establish a paid family leave implementation board. In Hawai‘i, 247,000 people serve as family caregivers. Of those who would benefit from paid family leave, it is estimated nearly one-third would take those leave benefits to care for an ill spouse or elderly parent. Most family caregivers are unable to afford to take time off from work.
“With so many families struggling just to survive in our islands, putting money into the hands of Hawai‘i’s working people and reducing income inequality will have positive economic benefits throughout our communities,” said Senator Tokuda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor. “Having the assurance of paid family leave benefits Hawai‘i’s economy by giving caregivers stability during times when they need it most, and ensures they can return back to the workforce when ready.”