TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Bay residents are bracing for their bills with news of the worst inflation rate in decades in the US. It's forcing many of them to make tough decisions, like seeking out free groceries to leaving retirement to re-enter the workforce.
Hundreds of families lined up at Pinellas Park on Friday for a fresh food giveaway. The event was a blessing as costs of groceries, gas and housing skyrocket. The need was so great, supplies ran out in 75 minutes.
People are battling the highest inflation rate in 40 years, rising 8.6% in May, compared to last year. In the Tampa Bay area, it's even higher at 11.3%.
Meat and fish prices nationwide are up more than 12%. Eggs are up more than 32%. Milk costs rose almost 16%. Fruits, veggies, and coffee are all up, too. The average price of a gallon of gas is $4.98 according to AAA, with nearly half of states already over $5.
The inflation rate in the Tampa Bay area has steadily hovered above the national level since last year. At this rate, we're nearly double New York City, and higher than other big cities like Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
"Everybody is in a bad situation right now due to inflation. Nobody's winning," said Matt Becker, who owns the Tampa franchise of the national staffing agency Pridestaff.
Inflation is even deflating retirement plans. According to the job search website Indeed, of those who left the workforce a year ago, 1.7 million, or 3.3%, are back to work.
"I think this week, there were between 15 to 20 people that have reached out that we've talked to or interviewed here who have said they've retired," said Becker. "They're back in the office now thinking they were done working. But they've got to get back to work because they were on fixed incomes. And unfortunately, they don't have the same buying power they used to."
Becker, a former White House liaison, is advising employers to prepare for the return of retirees.
"It's going to depend on the businesses," Becker said. "How flexible are they? Are they looking at flexible hours? Will they look at some remote work? Well, they bend a little bit on their hiring requirements? Because some of these people have been retired for two years. If they're flexible, I think there's good talent to be had."