Inflation check offers relief to Tulare County gas prices

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces a $17 billion plan to help around 23 million middle-class Californians with direct monetary aid

TULARE COUNTY – The state of California will band-aid a year of historic gas prices and inflation with a one-time relief check to middle class residents, which is the majority of Tulare County.

After experiencing the highest gas prices in U.S. history this summer, the state of California will finally begin rolling out inflation relief checks to qualifying residents as soon as October. The $17 billion relief package, called the Middle Class Tax Refund, will give roughly 23 million Californians up to $1,050 in a one-time relief check. This comes after a year of spiking consumer prices hit Tulare County, an already impoverished and rural region.

The state saw inflation rates jump from 3.7% in March 2021 to 9.2% in March 2022, according to the International Labor Organization. Spiking inflation rates mixed in with California’s already pricey living expenses created a concoction of financial burden on residents, especially rural and impoverished counties like Tulare County. Gas alone was the highest in California compared to the rest of the nation, according to AAA. On average, Americans are paying $3.677 a gallon for regular unleaded fuel, while Californians are paying an average of $5.447. Newson finally made the step to implement aid to state residents this summer, but even the highest amount of $1,050 would only cover a fraction of California’s average cost of living at $3,886 per month.

In Tulare County, gas prices average about $5.390, only $0.06 cents lower than the rest of the state, despite Tulare County making a household income 33.2% lower than the state average, ranking as the 12th poorest county out of 58 in California. Additionally, residents in Tulare County have a larger drive-time than other areas of California, equaling more gas, as Tulare County ranks 7 out of 58 in counties with the largest square mileage, according to California State Association of Counties. Yet, amid vastly different income and poverty levels throughout the state, the amount of relief aid is not based on a county’s price averages or demographics, but rather is a set amount for all of California. 

With no aid from the state, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors met and approved a letter to be sent in support of a moratorium on the California gasoline-excise tax that would provide residents of Tulare County with financial relief from gas prices on April 19. The letter expressed concern that high gas prices disproportionately and negatively impact rural and low income communities such as Tulare County. 

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” stated Gov. Gavin Newsom on the governor’s website.

The Middle Class Tax Refund will be eligible to those who were not claimed as dependents for the 2020 tax year, must be a resident of the state for more than 6 months, are a resident by the time relief payments are issued and must have filed 2020 taxes by Oct. 15, 2021. The relief check will be automatically deposited to eligible residents and do not require people to apply.

Single taxpayers who make up to $75,000 a year will be awarded $350 and an additional $350 for dependents. Joint filers who make less than $150,000 a year will be given $700 and an additional $350 for dependents, totaling $1,050. Those who make more will have reduced rates, with families whose household income is $500,000 and above not being eligible, according to the Middle Class Tax Refund calculator

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