"It helps us out, you know, like pay[ing for] the apartment, buy[ing] the groceries and gasoline and so many things... a lot of bills, you know," Hussein said.
Hussein's pay went from $5.75 up to $8.64 an hour, after Los Angeles County last month decided that with a booming economy, businesses could afford to pay more. But the idea of what is called a "living wage" is causing an uproar in the business community, even though the wage is largely limited to companies with government contracts. Businesses argue it's just too expensive.
"The minimum wage has become a minuscule wage," said Montgomery County Councilman Phil Andrews.
Maryland's Andrews represents an affluent community next door to the nation's capital. He pushed a whopping $10.44 wage, almost twice the minimum wage. But local businesses, including a hardware store, have successfully stopped it. The county council defeated the "living wage" bill Tuesday in a 5-3 vote.
"It does bother me that someone that might not have any understanding of my business or anybody else's business is creating an artificially high minimum wage that's not based on anything that makes any sense," said hardware store owner Stan smith.
Businesses argue that if they have to pay each worker more, there will be fewer jobs to go around - and that strikes fear among elected officials.
"We are the economic engine for Maryland. If you stop job creation here, you stop it in the state of Maryland," said Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan.
"This is not a measure that is going to put people out of business. It's going to allow everyone who works full time to lead a dignified life," said Andrew.
A dignified life - and for workers like Chiradh Hussein, a chance to make what it really costs to live.