BALTIMORE (WMAR) — With the new year comes new laws taking effect. From a minimum wage increase to a local plastic bag ban, some big changes are impacting small businesses and workers, and advocates plan to fight for more protections in 2021.
"We’ve seen that there’s so many low wage front line employees that are struggling through this time," said Ricarra Jones, the political director for 1199SEIU, representing health care workers.
In a time where finances are strained for many, relief is coming for low wage workers.
"You have increased costs of maybe having to purchase PPE during this time, you may have had to also pay for a hotel if you have to quarantine. There’s also increased costs with childcare," said Jones.
Effective Jan. 1, 2021, the state’s minimum wage increases 60 to 75 cents, depending on the size of the employer. It’s part of legislation to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
"With the effects of being in the midst of a pandemic, I think this increase is probably more important than ever before," said Jones.
With the new year comes other changes too. In Baltimore City, single use plastic bags will be banned at the point of sale, pickup, or delivery.
"This is a huge win for our planet, for our health, for our communities," said Kate Breimann, the director of Environment Maryland.
It’s part of the Comprehensive Bag Reduction Act. Baltimore businesses must charge 5 cents for each alternative bag distributed at check out.
Breimann said while it’s a great first step, in 2021, they are looking for a state-wide bag ban, as well as limiting other single use plastics.
"Hotel toiletry bottles, straws, utensils, condiment packets... like you mentioned earlier, with everything being take out, how many plastic forks do you have that you do not need? So there’s some great bills on that to say you gotta ask for it," said Breimann.
Jones has her sights set on improving the working conditions for the health care workers she represents, including hazard pay as part of the Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act.
"The thing that we’ve heard the most is that there’s a lack of basic health and safety provisions and protections out there for workers who are risking their lives every day," said Jones.
The plastic bag ban goes into effect January 13, 21021.