Household incomes in Fairfax County, Virginia, are struggling to keep up with the increased cost of living, according to a new report from the county.
The report found that overall consumer prices in the broader D.C. area grew by 7.5% in the year leading up to May 2022, mirroring national trends and representing the largest one-year increase in 40 years.
Rising food and gas prices continue to strain the bottom lines of county households, according to the report. Transportation expenses, which include the record-high prices of gas this year, saw the largest year-over-year increase, at almost 16%.
The county’s lowest-earning households have had the most trouble covering the costs of basic needs, and they saw the greatest increase in overall spending between 2016 and 2020, according to the report. Health care expenses contributed most to this increase, and the increases come as changes are expected in programs such as Medicaid and SNAP, also known as food stamps.
“Fairfax County residents with moderate to low income may have little to no money remaining after covering essential expenses,” the report reads. “This limits a household’s ability to build savings and restricts economic competitiveness.”
Over the long term, the data in the report show incomes struggling to keep up with rising costs. While the median household income in Fairfax has gone up about 21% since 2012, it has been outpaced by the 10-year increases in health care, food, housing and transportation expenses, according to the report.
Health care costs have seen the most significant long-term increase at 41%, which may present larger challenges for residents who have no insurance coverage.
The needs assessment — which has been conducted by the county’s Department of Management and Budget every three years since 2016 — provides information on current conditions for residents and communities, and allows for effective planning of services and resources.
It also outlines strategic opportunities for improvement in areas such as employment equity, food insecurity, child care access and small business support.
In response to housing concerns, the needs assessment proposes doubling the number of affordable housing units by 2034.