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Report: 40% of people in the Phoenix area say they're struggling to pay bills

Between the pandemic, inflation and now summer bills, a social services organization says they're seeing more people needing their help.

PHOENIX — According to a US Census Bureau Pulse survey, 40% of the people they’ve asked in the Phoenix metro area are now struggling to pay their usual household expenses.

That’s up from 28% this time last year.

Having a harder time

Rita Bailey is spending her days right now in a conference room at A New Leaf MesaCAN site.

“I want to make sure that I can provide for my family,” Bailey said.

It’s a change after January of 2022 when Bailey said she, her tween and teen daughters all got COVID-19.

“We lost literally two and a half weeks of our lives where everything just came to a complete stop,” Bailey said. “And after two years of everything coming to a complete stop that was the icing that broke the camel’s back, and that cost me my last position.”

Bailey said while they live in affordable housing in Tempe, there were still things that were harder to pay for.

“This was when the gas prices started to go up as well. And that's when it hit the grocery stores,” Bailey said.

Through changes like taking the light rail and others, the single mom found ways to streamline their other expenses.

“We had to get a food box once in a while. We had to ask for, ‘Okay, how do I fill out the application for utility assistance?’, and that’s when I found out that SRP had that and APS had the lower rate if you qualify.”

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‘More people than ever are seeking our help’

The results from the Census Bureau’s survey show that Bailey isn’t alone.

The 40% of people who said they’re having trouble affording their household expenses is the highest since the bureau started asking that question in August 2020.

“More people than ever are seeking our help,” Eva Felix, director of the A New Leaf MesaCAN site.

Felix said the pandemic, inflation, and now summer bills are adding up.

“It’s summer, somebody may be able to pay during the winter $150, $120. Well, now that bill is about $300. So families do find themselves deciding, ‘Do I pay my electric bill? Or do I pay half of it and then put food on the table?’”

RELATED: US economy shrinks again, but Biden administration says no recession

Expecting more people will need more help

The site off of Broadway near Mesa Drive helps with utility, rent, mortgage assistance and more.

Felix expects more people will continue to need their help.

“Inflation has not improved the situation,” Felix said. “Gas prices, affordable housing – what the heck is that? Our families are finding themselves there is no affordable housing,” Felix said.

Bailey is going through the Bankwork$ program at A New Leaf MesaCAN. The 8-week program prepares people for teller, personal banker and customer service positions in the finance sector.

She’s hoping that it’ll help lead to a more stable career in the future.

“I’ve had jobs, but I was looking for something that I could stick with for a while. If this economy is showing us anything is that, more than ever, we need that backup,” Bailey said.

If you’re needing assistance paying bills, or need other financial assistance, you can find community action agencies in Arizona that may be able to help here.  

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