Across the country, rapid inflation has increased the cost of everything from food and gas to electronics and housing. Americans are struggling to pay for necessities while keeping up with their rent or mortgage, bills and other demands.
In North Texas, these trends have become a significant challenge for many of our neighbors. At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we’re working to mitigate the effects of inflation on individuals and families. By leading a movement to improve access to education, income and health, we are creating opportunity for North Texans to thrive—despite the difficult economic conditions.
Read on to learn more about how inflation is affecting our region, as well as some of the ways we work to uplift people throughout the community.
North Texas Is Experiencing Record Inflation
The consumer price index is a good indicator of how the price of goods is impacting individuals. The index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a variety of consumer goods and services.
Over the last 12 months, our region’s consumer price index has risen 9.1%—the largest increase since December 1981—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price of fuel and food are hitting North Texans the hardest. Energy prices have jumped 40.2% and food prices have increased 11.6% since summer 2021.
Meanwhile, the cost of rent in our region is up 17% year-over-year and 22.8% since the start of the pandemic, outpacing the national average.
For an average family in North Texas, that can mean spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars more every month to pay rent, buy groceries, cool their home and run errands.
The Effects of Inflation
As the cost of rent, goods and services continues to increase, North Texans need to make more money just to achieve a living wage. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator, an adult living in Dallas County with one child needs to make $33.62 an hour to cover basic expenses and have a little money saved for emergencies. Just last year, the hourly living wage for a single parent was $31.94—proof that the cost of living has risen sharply in our community.
Unfortunately, North Texas has a shortage of good-paying jobs, and every year more occupations require a degree or certification. As a result, 74% of young adults in North Texas don’t earn a living wage.
Understandably, the results of the current inflation crisis are particularly devastating for workers who don’t have a stable income and lack financial security. Inflation and rising prices have had a significant impact on buying power, especially for families that are food insecure. As a result, 800,000 people in North Texas face food insecurity, according to North Texas Food Bank. Meanwhile, rising rents have put even more of our neighbors on the brink of eviction.
United Way Is Empowering North Texans Against Inflation
Inflation can easily impact all areas of a person’s life, including our three focus areas of education, income and health. For example, higher transportation costs make it more expensive for parents to take their children to school, rising prices make it more important than ever that workers make a living wage, and factors like the cost of food make it more difficult to stay healthy.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we lead and invest in a variety of programs that create opportunity for North Texans. Together with our dedicated supporters, we are improving access to education, income and health, a mission that is as important as ever during these challenging times.
As Susan Hoff, chief strategy and impact officer at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, explains, “Today’s astronomic inflation rates have a significant impact on North Texans, particularly those with low to moderate incomes. United Way helps hard-working families bridge the immediate gaps with programs that provide rental assistance, health insurance coverage, groceries and school supplies. And our job training and certification programs like Pathways to Work and Women in Construction offer long-term solutions, equipping adults to get and keep living-wage jobs.”
Take a look at how many of our programs are having a positive impact on our neighbors during this time of historic inflation:
- Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative: In 2020, the City of Dallas chose us as a trusted partner to lead this collaborative, which provides rental and utility assistance so people can stay in their homes. Since the start of the pandemic, DRAC has provided thousands of households with rental and/or utility assistance and distributed millions of dollars in assistance to affected families.
- The Dallas Technology Training Consortium: Funded this year through a $2.2 million grant from the City of Dallas, this initiative is providing IT and technology skills training to individuals impacted by the COVID-19 recession, opening workers up to new and better-paying job opportunities. The program will serve 630 Dallas residents over a two-year period, in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Dallas, NPower and Per Scholas.
- Digital Connections, powered by AT&T: Starting in January, United Way began to distribute laptops and hot spots through AT&T’s $1 million grant to provide K-12 students and young people ages 18-24 across Southern Dallas with the resources needed to access education, further their learning, and stay connected in the classroom and beyond. We also partnered with Compudopt to provide refurbished laptops that come with two years of warranty and bilingual technical assistance. To date, we have distributed 1,500 hotspots and 730 laptops across Southern Dallas, creating new opportunities for students and young workers to learn key digital skills and secure a path to a good-paying career.
- Healthcare navigators: At a time when rising costs may force some families to drop their health insurance coverage, United Way helps North Texans find and enroll in affordable plans that work for them. Our navigators assist with enrollment applications for coverage and financial assistance through the ACA Marketplace, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ensuring each client receives all the financial benefits for which they are eligible.
- North Texas Summer & Supper Council: This summer meals program ensures students who rely on subsidized meal programs during the school year continue to get daily, nutritious food during summer months. During the past year, the program provided a total of 12.2 million summer meals to students across Dallas and Collin counties to combat summer hunger. Over the last few months, summer meals have provided much-needed relief for countless families who are coping with increased food prices while their children are out of school.
- Pathways to Work, which provides training and credentialing programs to help hard-working North Texans get better-paying jobs in the high-demand fields of IT and healthcare. In our current economy, programs like this are increasingly important, since in the wake of the pandemic more employers are “up-credentialing” jobs by requiring additional preparation or training.
- Stock the School and Stock SOC: Inflation has increased the price of nearly everything, and today the average family spends $660 on school supplies. To help our neighbors prepare for the new school year, we recently hosted Stock the School and Stock SOC, two volunteer events that enable community members to work together to ensure all students (and their teachers) have the resources they need to succeed. Each year, these types of volunteer events benefit thousands of students and educators, setting local children up for a positive experience in the fall.
- Women in Construction: This workforce development program is part of our Southern Dallas Thrives initiative, a partnership with United Way, PepsiCo Foundation and Frito-Lay North America. In partnership with Hilti North America, Women in Construction seeks to attract more women to the fast-growing construction industry by providing them with training and wrap-around services, such as childcare and transportation.
- The Women’s Workforce Readiness Initiative: This partnership with CitySquare through Southern Dallas Thrives provides 550 Dallas-area women with the social support and technical and soft-skills training needed to secure employment in high-growth industries such as advanced manufacturing and logistics, sales and marketing, and food and hospitality management.
See How You Can Positively Impact Your Neighbors
Amid rampant inflation, so many of our neighbors could benefit from support from the community. We invite you to join our movement and create opportunity for all North Texans.
You can have a direct impact on workforce development in our region by:
- Making a donation to United Way, which will help support important initiatives like the ones outlined above.
- Volunteering to be a digital literacy coach. Digital literacy opens the door to new job opportunities and higher-paying careers. In this volunteer role, you’ll coach and motivate digital learners with tasks such as setting up an Indeed and LinkedIn profile and alerts, navigating through Microsoft Office programs, and other various professional technology skills.