HONOLULU (KHON2) — Beginning Oct. 1, Hawaii’s minimum wage will go up to $12 per hour. This marks the first increase since the minimum wage was set at $10.10 four years ago.

In 2024, the minimum wage will rise to $14 per hour, then to $16 per hour in 2026 and finally to $18 per hour in 2028.

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Living Wage Hawaii said this will help over 200,000 workers earn $4,000 a year.

“The purpose of the minimum wage law is to protect the health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers,” DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said in a statement on Thursday. “The minimum wage rate is a floor designed to protect workers against unduly low pay.”

Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki told KHON2 last week that this is not the right time for another possible increase. 

Click here to see information on the tip credit and charts.

“It’s great for the employees who now, you know, can get whatever they decide upon it,” said Yamaki. “But the question is, can the businesses afford it?”

She said business owners cannot afford another added expense to their operations.

Mililani resident, Zan Walker, has experienced the struggles of trying to make ends meet as a fast food industry worker. She said, one of the other challenges is seeing her older coworkers struggle.

“It must be almost impossible to build a savings and eventually even retire. I knew many of them had multiple low-paying jobs and still weren’t able to build that much of a savings or anything at all really,” Walker said.

“Although the minimum wage isn’t up to the standard of how much the cost of living actually is, it’s a step forward and anything is good, really even baby steps,” said Walker.

“People are able to potentially work fewer hours in their second job, people are potentially able to afford more food, people are able to spend more time with their kids,” said Nate Hix of Living Wage Hawaii.

As the statewide increase rolls out, counties are looking at their own rules. Maui County will include a bill in its legislative package to allow each county to set its own minimum wage and advocates are on board with the idea.

“I think they should be able to do so. You’ve seen this across the nation where you have states that are reluctant to raise the minimum wage, but local municipalities have the ability to do so too,” Hix said.

Experts said, the increase in minimum wage will have a positive impact on the economy.

“Those increases in income for low-wage households get spent in the economy and they have a positive impact on the businesses across the state and so there’s a economic benefit to this as well,” said Carl Bonham, University of Hawaii Economic Research organization, Executive Director.

Advocates are looking forward to working on other efforts to create a living wage for all.

“At the bare minimum, if you’re putting in 40 hours a week you should be able to put a roof over your head, put food on the table, and so hopefully this is a trend,” Hix said.

For more information on wage and hour laws, click here.

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According to DLIR, employees customarily tipped may be paid at rates lower than the minimum wage provided the combined amount the employee receives from their employer and in tips is at least $7 more than the minimum wage.