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'We need help right now' | People of color hit hardest by inflation, gas prices

"High gas prices are not making it any easier for people to live their daily lives," community activist Samual Brown said.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gas prices in the U.S. spiked long before Russia invaded Ukraine. But, the price at the pump has spiraled even faster since the start of the war.

According to AAA, the national gas price average stood at $4.32 on Monday. California is leading the nation with the highest gas price, averaging $5.74. Gas prices tend to be higher in California than other states. That's, partially, due to higher taxes for infrastructure and environmental fees. 

As gas prices continue to climb, many people, particularly in historically marginalized communities, are trying figure out how to make ends meet. 

Samual Nathaniel Brown lives in Sacramento. After spending nearly 25 years in prison, he turned away from crime to become a leader and activist in Black communities. As the co-founder of the nonprofit Anti-Violence Safety and Accountability Project, Brown is on a mission to break the cycle of violence and address its harms by dismantling systemic racism.

"High gas prices are not making it any easier for people to live their daily lives," Brown said. "We're always budgeting in our communities. We ration out how much are we going to spend on gas a month."

When Brown was released from prison in December, the state of California gave him $200 for basic needs. Under California's existing law, the state gives newly released prisoners $200 through an allowance program - often referred to as 'gate money.' 

"With the increase in gas prices, rent, food, and everything else, what we're provided with to survive makes us feel like we are not wanted in society," Brown said. "I've been able to survive because I have a strong support network by the grace of God. I work hard every day. Nevertheless, even with that hard work, it's still challenging."

According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor, inflation is also causing consumer prices to soar. That includes goods and services, like food and energy. The U.S. Department of Labor defines inflation as the overall general upward price movement of goods and services in an economy. 

A 2021 report by Bank of America shows inflation hits communities of color more than others. Researchers also found that Blacks, Latinos, and people living in rural areas spend the majority of their money on goods and services that have seen the most price inflation, such as energy, food, cars, and household items. 

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Lawmakers in California say they want to help consumers, specifically at the pump. Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing a 'gas tax rebate,' while other lawmakers suggest 'lowering the state tax on gas suppliers.' Despite the latest proposals from lawmakers, many communities of color, low-income families, and others are still desperately in need of help financially. 

"The gas tax holiday is a terrible idea," Brown said. "First and foremost, it's placing corporations over individuals. As far as the gas tax rebate goes, while the intentions are good, we don't need help on the back end, we need help right now."

Brown, for one, is labeling the gas spike a crisis in California. He wants the government to provide a debit card loaded each month -- similar to the EBT system -- to historically marginalized communities to be used for gas only.


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