My name is Ashwani Jain. I’m a first generation American, a native of Montgomery County, the son of small business owners, a proud product of our public schools, a former appointee with the Obama-Biden Administration, and a 15 year survivor of childhood cancer.
I love Montgomery County and am blessed to call it my home. I’ve lived in 4 of the 5 council districts and in both the east and west sides of the county. And I never left this county because it’s home to my American Dream.
But, at this moment, when the federal government is rejecting the values that we as Americans hold dear, so many in our community feel that no matter how hard they try, they can’t get ahead in life.
So that’s why our local governments need to step up. Now, more than ever, we need our leaders to fight for our Montgomery County values. This includes raising our minimum wage to $15 an hour.
I believe the role of government is to ensure equality of opportunity by investing in its citizens. My family immigrated to this country with limited resources. My grandfather was a school janitor. My mother is a product of community college and once worked for minimum wage. And my father struggled to start his own business in an outdoor flea market. I’m glad to say that today, my parents are successful small business owners. So I’ve seen first-hand the value of hard work and having a reliable partner in government.
But our goal should be to continue creating an ecosystem that accelerates our residents into the jobs of tomorrow.
Montgomery County is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, a single person needs to earn more than $21 per hour to get by - and that number goes up for families. By raising our minimum wage to something closer to a living wage of $15 an hour, we can improve the lives of our working families, save taxpayers money that would otherwise go towards subsidies, and increase our competitiveness in terms of attracting talented people who want to work and live in Montgomery County.
This will help our business leaders - who understand the need to invest in their employees to ensure less costly employee turnover and increased employee retention, satisfaction, productivity, creativity and loyalty.
This will help our teachers - many of whom cannot afford to live in our county or send their own children to the schools in which they teach.
And this will help our economy - as it will create greater economic security for our families, and in turn, allow them to reinvest those extra dollars right here in Montgomery County.
It’s been done before. Cities from Seattle to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Flagstaff (Arizona), and even just down the road in Washington, D.C., have all approved $15 minimum wages in recent years. California and New York approved the first statewide $15 minimum wages in 2016. About 10 million workers have benefited from these $15 minimum wage laws so far.
So I urge this Council to join local governments around the country who are stepping in where Congress has failed. We can and should make Montgomery County a national leader by raising our minimum wage. And I appreciate your time.