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Merrill residents react to cost of living increases

Fresh and organic vegetables at farmers market
Eugen Wais/EwaStudio - stock.adobe.com
Fresh and organic vegetables at farmers market

Rising costs have been in headlines recently.

Between childcare and rent, many are living paycheck to paycheck.

For the past seven years, home prices have risen faster than incomes in Wisconsin.

Renter’s median income has mostly kept up with rental prices, but costs have still increased.

There’s a concerning amount of people who are rent-burdened.

The number of Wisconsinites who spent more than 30% of their income on rent rose from 43% in 2017 to 45% in 2022, although rent-burden was actually a little more prevalent in the years following the Great Recession.

WXPR spoke to a renter named Abbi at an apartment complex in Merrill.

She said that in the year that she had been living in her apartment, the rent hadn’t increased, but it still eats up a large portion of her budget.

“We're saving for a house and it's almost impossible to save any money for a down payment with the cost of the apartment. It's definitely a large portion of our paycheck, even as two working parents it's, it's a lot and it's very difficult,” said Abbi.

Others echoed that sentiment.

“I'm in college and the military. And I feel like that's still not enough. And I was working full time and it hits you kind of mentally too. Because you can only afford rent and then you're kind of done for the month,” said one renter.

“It has every year, it seems like something went up, but so far I can manage it,” said another renter.

Although inflation fell from 9% in mid-2022 to 3.5% in March, 2024, it’s still a major concern.

A February study by the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the top concerns of families with young children were inflation and income inequality.

One person recently found out that she’s pregnant and worries about the costs of groceries.

An analysis by HelpAdvisor of the U.S. Census Bureaufound that Wisconsinites spend the least on groceries nationally.

However, prices have been increasing, andaccording to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices rose by 2% in the Midwest this year.

“Being pregnant, you kinda want to eat healthier, and I'm like, I can't even afford the meat and the protein,” she said.

“We try and eat a pretty clean diet and it’s very difficult to eat good quality food when paying such high prices on our other bills,” said Abbi.

The cost of childcare is just too much to take on.

In Wisconsin, childcare costs more annually than a year of in-state tuition at UW-Madison.

“Daycare and stuff is like double the cost. You can't afford it nowadays. So it's like you got to be a stay at home mom,” she said.

At the beginning of March, Governor Evers signed legislationto significantly increase the current childcare tax credit for families in the hopes of reducing their burden.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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