Higher wages, lower food bills
Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2023
From higher minimum wage to lower taxes at the grocery store, the new year means a few new laws took effect.
Virginia joined the growing list of states raising their minimum wage beginning Jan. 1.
Hourly workers will now be able to make a living wage of $12/hour, which is $40 more per week, or $2,080 more per year.
But only some hourly employees will be eligible for the wage increase. Those exceptions include
• Full-time students putting in fewer than 20 hours of work per week
• Individuals under the age of 18 employed by a parent or guardian
• Any person under the age of 16, regardless of employer
• Caddies on golf courses
• Those employed as farm laborers or farm employee
For those hourly employees working in restaurants, tipped employees may be paid at the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, but an employee’s hourly wages plus tips must meet the state’s minimum new wage rate.
The raise in minimum wage is part of a 2020 law passed under former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
That could be a significant step forward in giving workers a much-needed pay raise.
If Virginia lawmakers reenact the law before July 1, 2024, it will ensure that workers receive the long-awaited wage increases to $13.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2025, and $15 an hour a year later.
LOWER BILLS AT THE GROCERY STORE
On Jan. 1, Virginia cut taxes on groceries and certain personal hygiene products from 2.5 percent to 1 percent. This includes sales of food for home consumption and certain essential personal hygiene products.
The new law taking effect ends the state’s previous 1.5 percent sales tax on groceries. That translates to $1.50 in savings for every $100 spent.
WHAT QUALIFIES AS FOOD FOR HOME CONSUMPTION?
Most staple grocery items and cold-prepared foods packaged for home consumption qualify for the reduced sales tax rate.
Items that don’t qualify for the reduced rate include: alcoholic beverages; tobacco; prepared hot foods packaged for immediate consumption on or off premises; seeds and plants used to grow food for home consumption.
Certain types of vendors are presumed to be selling food for immediate consumption and are not allowed to charge the reduced rate.
These include: caterers; concession vendors; entertainment facilities (theme parks, stadiums, etc.); fair and carnival vendors; gift shops; hamburger and hot dog stands; honor snack vendors; ice cream stands and trucks; mobile food vendors; movie theaters; newsstands; vending machine vendors.
According to the latest federal data measuring prices in May 2022, the cost of food at home rose 11.9% since the same time last year — the largest 12-month increase in more than four decades.
WAYS TO SAVE
The recent news of rising food inflation can be concerning for families and individuals struggling to make ends meet.
While there are no easy solutions, there are ways to help potentially reduce food costs and create a budget-friendly grocery list. Research shows that buying in bulk and making a detailed shopping list can help save money and time.
Additionally, it is essential to consider shopping at farmer’s markets and other local businesses for fresh and affordable food options.
Lastly, taking advantage of digital coupons and cashback offers can help stretch your grocery budget.