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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

A housing crisis and inflation are making it harder for theme park workers to stay in Florida

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Theme park workers met in Orange County on Monday to discuss how inflation and an affordable housing crisis are making it harder for them to live and work in Florida.

Unite Here Local 737 workers gathered at the Bear Creek Recreation Center on Monday night wearing shirts that read “the fighting union.”

Dozens crowded the main community room as they shared stories about how inflation and an affordable housing crisis are making it harder for them to survive. 

Tiara Moton stood out wearing a white chef’s uniform. She works at Disney and says this month she’s been struggling to pay for the basics like rent and electricity. 

“I’m in a situation of trying to figure out how I’m going to come up with my rent, which was due what yes– today? I had to sacrifice some of my rent money in order to pay my light bill because my lights got turned off. And I was sitting in the house for two, three days with my two-year-old child with no electricity. In the heat our food went bad.” 

Then there’s Kadejha Reid who also works at Disney and is a single mom. She’s been having a hard time paying for necessities like childcare. 

“Currently, I have a one-bedroom apartment which is $1,200 dollars. They went up on my rent. I had to change my son’s daycare he was at since he was five months old. And I’m not able to get food stamps.” 

Victoria Burns says she considers herself lucky even though she has to live with two roommates to make ends meet, and she says she feels the pain of her situation daily. She says she lives with PTSD.

“And I know I’m privileged, that if I really get in a tight spot, I can call my parents but there’s so many people that don’t have that. But I’m 26 starting tomorrow and I’m asking my parents for help and like, I feel like a failure. And that’s not right.”

Back in October, state law set the minimum wage at $15 dollars an hour. Workers now say more pay and benefits are needed to combat inflation. 

Florida is consistently ranked one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Danielle Prieur