Californians confront rising cost of living – CalMatters

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California, explained
If you’ve got your mind on your money and your money on your mind, you aren’t alone.
Driven largely by increases in the cost of food, housing and health care, inflation rose 8.2% in September compared to the same time last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday.
And the core inflation rate — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — soared by 6.6% over the same period, marking the largest uptick in four decades, according to the department.
The news doesn’t bode well for California, which already has a higher percentage of residents living in poverty than any other state in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account.
And Californians are also paying the highest gas prices in the country, according to AAA: Although the average cost for a gallon of regular fell to $6.20 in the Golden State on Thursday — down from a near-record high of $6.42 last week — that’s still much higher than the national average of $3.91.
But relief is on the way: California last week began sending $9.5 billion worth of rebates to millions of residents to help cover the soaring cost of living, though some may not see their checks until January.
Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced last week that it’s set to distribute a second round of $1.4 billion by the end of the year to help cover utility bills for Californians behind on their electricity and water payments.
And Newsom’s office continues to point to his proposal to enact a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry — which he wants state lawmakers to consider in a special legislative session starting Dec. 5 — as a way to return more money to Californians.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,458,792 confirmed cases and 95,604 deaths, according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 82,374,643 vaccine doses, and 72.3% of eligible Californians have completed their primary vaccine series.
California may be in the throes of a rare fall monsoon causing wetter-than-usual weather across much of the state, but it’s likely still headed into a fourth straight year of drought after experiencing its second-warmest September on record. Citing the importance of bolstering California’s water supplies — especially as the Colorado River falls to historic lows, imperiling much of Southern California — state regulators on Thursday unanimously approved a $140 million desalination plant in Orange County, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. The decision from the California Coastal Commission — which came five months after it rejected a high-profile proposal for a $1.4 billion desalination plant, also in Orange County — indicates that state regulators are open to the strategy of turning salty seawater into drinking water.
In an unusual move, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Hanford asked Attorney General Rob Bonta in a Thursday letter to create a special state Department of Justice law enforcement unit to address “rising violence, including homicide rates,” in Kern County, which she described as “rural and underfunded.” Hurtado cited McFarland Unified School District’s Tuesday decision to cancel athletic events for the rest of the week after a “rash of violence,” including a Monday shooting in Delano that left two people dead. Two school districts in North Kern — Wasco Union High and Delano Joint Union High — also canceled sports events out of an abundance of caution, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
“The Delano area does have gang and narcotics issues, and surrounding law enforcement is doing the best they can with the resources they have,” Delano High football coach Frank Gonzalez Jr. told the Bakersfield Californian. “These are issues that take time and a lot of manpower.” McFarland Police Chief Kenny Williams added, “For as long as I can remember, there’s always been gang issues between the city of McFarland and Delano.”
Get ready to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting in California’s Nov. 8 election in the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data.
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