A hit in the wallet. How Philadelphia consumers are coping with rising inflation

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA — Last year, Dwayne Fair bought a home in North Philly that needed some work. Fair, 58, who works at the home remodeling business, decided to do the repairs himself. “It needed a facelift,” he said.

But recently, Fair has noticed that the prices of commodities like wood, flagstone, and electrical wiring have almost doubled.

“The SUVs that we used to pay about $3.95 for are now about $8 each,” Fair said. “It’s crazy.”

“Sheet stone, electrical wiring has almost doubled in price.” So Fair decided to slow down the process and spread out the work to spend less.

“It’s pretty tough on anyone who works on home renovations,” said Fair, who has been in the business for about 10 years.

“Gasoline is astronomical and groceries are going up,” Fair said. “You restrict a lot of luxuries, like going to the movies and sometimes even cable. This inflation thing is out of control. In general, a lot of people just live paycheck to paycheck.”

Fair, who bought his home from the Philadelphia Housing Authority after renting for years, is not alone.

In March, inflation rose 8.5 percent compared to the same month in 2021, the biggest jump in four decades, as millions of Americans were hit hard by the cost of food, gasoline, housing and other consumer goods. The higher prices eliminated wage increases that many people received.

William Raymond, a deacon at Bright Hope Baptist Church on 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Aveune, said the church offers free food, including cooked lunches, groceries and produce, several days a week and delivers Monday through Friday food for the sick or not being able to leave their homes.

This year, more than 60 people use it per day, compared to about 10 to 15 people per day in 2021, Raymond said.

Michelle Williams, who is unemployed, said inflation has forced her to make difficult decisions, such as B. Making partial payments on monthly bills and replacing some of their favorite foods with less expensive meals.

“It’s definitely affecting how I shop and pay my bills,” Williams said. “It puts me at risk for shutdown notifications. I hope something is done soon because the thought of being homeless is terrifying.”

For example, a family of six can have a monthly grocery bill ranging from $800 to $1,000.

“We’re seeing clients needing to revise their budget,” Tyler said. “Your paycheck or Social Security check can’t pay your monthly expenses. People rely on credit cards a lot more.”

The non-profit group provides budgeting, savings and credit advice primarily to low-moderate families and individuals.

“We got new data and one of the things that really came out of that data is that 70% of March’s inflation was due to rising energy costs and 60% was due to rising gas prices,” said Boushey of the Council of Economic Advisors.

When asked what the administration is doing to ease the pain, she said the Biden administration has already authorized the release of one million barrels a day from the Strategic Oil Reserve to expand supply and reduce gasoline costs.

According to Boushey, President Joe Biden said last week he would allow gas stations to increase the amount of ethanol, a gasoline additive, by up to 15 percent to lower prices for some consumers by up to 10 cents a gallon because ethanol is cheaper as oil.

“He’s really focused on the whole government approach to figure out all the different ways that we can control costs for families,” Boushey said.

In July 2021, Biden issued an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies to investigate a number of industries, including food and gas, to ensure there was no price-gouging or anti-competitive behavior going on.

“He made it clear that in this moment of need, people shouldn’t over-inflate prices,” Boushey said. “We want to ensure that every family who is eligible for grants under the Affordable Care Act can receive them, and we are extending the facilitation of student loan payments.”

Despite rising prices, the US economy remains strong.

The unemployment rate fell in March from 6 percent in March 2021 to an all-time low of 3.6 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last week, JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said the economy was growing. He listed double-digit growth in credit card spending and low consumer debt.

But JPMorganChase also said it is setting aside $900 million in case the economy goes down. A year earlier, the bank set aside $5.2 billion for loan losses in the early months of the pandemic.

According to Dimon, Russia’s war against Ukraine and the highest inflation in 40 years are risks that, while relatively small, could trigger a recession.

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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