Whatcom County businesses should brace for another state minimum wage increase on January 1, 2021. On that date, the new state minimum wage will be $13.69 per hour. State overtime rules are also changing, which could result in employers seeing additional increases to the labor costs beyond just the wage increase.

While the planned minimum wage increase has been on the books for some time, the ongoing pandemic, restrictions, and resulting economic downturn make the timing of increased labor costs problematic and potentially even unsustainable for many community businesses. Research has shown that minimum wage increases often result in the loss of minimum wage jobs. Many of the minimum wage workers in retail, restaurants, and the arts have already seen reduced hours and even job losses.

Those job losses also come when the cost of housing in Whatcom County has continued to skyrocket, despite the economic impact of the pandemic.

“We know these minimum wage increases are well intended, but they often have an inverse effect,” said Barbara Chase, Whatcom Business Alliance executive director. “Many county businesses that employ minimum wage workers are teetering on the brink of closure, if they aren’t already out of business. Across the state, renters asked for relief. Thankfully, they received it. Hospitals and healthcare asked for relief and support, and they’ve received both. Businesses need relief, too. Delaying the effective date of a new minimum wage until all state businesses are safe to operate at full capacity is the type of reasonable policymaking we should expect from the state government. Unfortunately, I am not sure we will get that.”

While the minimum wage increase will go into effect on January 1, the WBA strongly encourages members and the local business community to contact their state representatives and the Governor’s office to voice their opinion on upcoming wage minimum increases.

To find your state representative, click here. To find your state senator, click here. You can contact the Governor’s office by clicking here.

To follow the WBA’s advocacy efforts, please visit the WBA Policy Center and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about our vision to return Whatcom County’s business community to prosperity.