Legislation awaiting the governor’s signature would move Virginia from one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to one of the highest.
The minimum wage in Virginia has stayed stagnant at $7.25 for over decade, despite a steady increase in the cost of living. Finally, Virginia lawmakers have a plan in place to raise the state’s minimum wage for over thousands of people.
The General Assembly this weekend passed a bill to raise the minimum wage $7.25 an hour to $9.50 per hour, starting in January. This excludes farm workers, work study students and students under the age 18 who work less than 20 hours a week.
One year later, it’s scheduled to increase again to $10.50 an hour, and increases to $11.25 in 2023. Eventually, the minimum wage would cap at $15 an hour by 2026.
For 30-year-old Richmond resident Jonathan Jenkins, this is long overdue. Jonathan remembers his first minimum wage job, working at a Wendy’s for seven dollars years ago.
“This should’ve happened long ago,” said Jenkins. “The cost of living is high and people need to pay their bills.”
Before the $15 cap is established, the bill calls for a study of regional minimum wage. After the effects of that study are analyzed, lawmakers would vote on whether or not to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 and eventually $15.
“It’s going to examine the impact on employers and workers,” Del. Jeion Ward (D-Hampton), who introduced the bill, told the Virginia Mercury. “The General Assembly will then have the opportunity to come back and vote on the legislation that completes the path to $15 an hour by January 2026.”
If lawmakers do not come to a decision, then the rate would steadily increase with inflation across the fiscal year.
“People would be able to live a little better until we get that study done,” said Ward.
Most Republicans opposed the increase, arguing that a $15 minimum wage would hurt employers. Democrats said the current deal is the best compromise for everyone.