Amid inflation fears, Hawaii business owners and consumers brace for rising prices

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 4:47 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s already sky high cost of living is poised to get worse.

Consumer prices nationwide reached their highest levels in a decade last month, potentially impacting local businesses and consumers.

“I’m self-employed and I have stuff coming in, the prices are already 20%, 30% up,” said Reggie Apana, who imports sporting goods.

“The margin goes like that ― to practically nothing. I got to decide now whether to eat them or increase the prices.”

If he increases the imports’ prices, the costs will eventually get passed on to consumers, who are already struggling with Hawaii’s high cost of living.

“The concern is how much higher is it going to go and for how long we can keep this up,” said Joel Kusnierz, men’s tennis coach at the University of Hawaii.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, the Consumer Price Index ― which measures what Americans pay for housing, groceries, gasoline and other goods and services ― rose by 5.4% from the previous year.

Hawaii’s inflation rate, which is reported twice a year and not monthly, tends to mirror the national inflation rate but not on everything.

“Actually, it’s cheaper here than in California or New York. Their gas is way up, their cost of living is way up,” said Manoa resident Ray Padron.

Advocates for low-income residents say even a small increase in inflation hits the the poor and the working class the hardest ― like Nicco Ferraro of Whitmore Village.

Ferraro said he already struggles to pay his rent on the day it’s due.

“What I’ve already done is the past is I’ve skipped meals just to have that extra money to pay rent,” he said. “I ride a bike to work a lot these days so I don’t have to spend a lot on gas.”

Gavin Thornton, executive director of Hawaii Appleseed added:

“You and I might be able to afford a 5% increase in our grocery bill. But if you’re already eating rice and ramen, you can’t really work that into the budget.”

The pressure on prices will also increase pressure to raise wages, experts said.

“We’ve been pushing for the minimum wage to be raised,” said Sergio Alcubilla, of the Hawaii Workers Center.

“It’s crazy to think our minimum wage of $10.10 an hour wasn’t raised this year by the Legislature considering we have the highest cost of living.”

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