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Editorial board: With inflation high, now is the time to help others in need

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Gas Prices

A man fills up his Jeep on Tuesday at the East Second Street Loaf ‘n Jug Jan. 19, 2016, in Casper. 

You might have noticed it when you were at the pump. Maybe you spotted it when you were paying your heating bill. Perhaps it was apparent when you looked for a new apartment. Prices are going up.

The U.S. inflation rate for September reached 5.4%. You’d have to go back to the summer of 2008 for a time before this year when inflation rates were this high.

The Consumer Price Index for September illustrates just how much things have changed over the past 12 months. The index for used cars and trucks jumped 24.4%. New car prices rose 8.7%, the largest such increase since September 1980, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s not just big ticket items that are getting pricey. Meats and eggs saw big jumps. So did furniture and bedding.

The effect is even more pronounced in the energy sector. Gasoline is up a whopping 42% compared to this time last year, although that’s partially due to how far the commodity had fallen amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a global price war. Natural gas, which is used by many Americans to heat their homes in the winter, is up 20.6%.

The upshot is this: At a time when many Wyomingites are still facing economic uncertainty, the cost of basic and essential services is going up.

It might not be terribly surprising that prices are rising so much right now. Historically, inflation tends to jump following economic downturns. And we experienced one heck of an economic crunch last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean inflation isn’t painful — especially for those in our community who are already living paycheck to paycheck.

Unfortunately, addressing it isn’t easy. The Federal Reserve can step in and raise rates, but that can slow the economy. And it won’t result in immediate changes.

But there are things we can do to help. If you’re in the economic position to do so, why not support the nonprofit groups that form Wyoming’s safety net? Think of the shelters that will provide housing for those who lost it. Think of the food banks that keep people from going hungry. They are also existing in a world of rising prices, so if you can support them, it will help.

Local and state leaders also have a role to play. Wyoming finds itself, thanks to high energy prices and ample relief funding, suddenly flush with cash. It would be wise to use some of that funding to help those who are struggling to pay for basic services. If inflation is an after effect of the pandemic’s economic slowdown, then it is appropriate to use pandemic aid to help people weather the storm.

State leaders can also help by working to ensure relief actually gets to the people who need it. We’ve already seen delays in delivering rental assistance to struggling tenants. It’s all the more important right now that programs intended to aid those in need actually do so without bureaucracy and red tape.

The good news about inflation is that it will slow down. But in the meantime, we can make things easier on those who are struggling to get by. As we approach the holidays, support those who help our fellow residents. Give what you can, and push our leaders to do the same. Let’s show that Wyomingites can take care of their own.

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