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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.

How increases to Social Security benefits will impact seniors in the greater Tampa Bay region

Group of people, many older, sit and stand around a table. There are flowers and papers on the table. Other tables in the background have yellow tablecloths on them.
Courtesy of Area Agency on Aging for Pasco-Pinellas
Staff and church congregants gather at an outreach event on Sept. 15 hosted by the Area Agency on Aging for Pasco and Pinellas counties at the Skyview Church of Christ.

Social Security benefits will increase by 8.7 percent in 2023 to adjust for cost-of-living increases. The latest data show inflation in Tampa's metro surpassed the national average with a 10.5 percent increase in prices.

Starting in January, more than 65 million beneficiaries nationwide can expect a larger Social Security check.

Benefits are scheduled to increase by 8.7 percent in 2023 to adjust for inflation, according to the Social Security Administration. For retired workers, that means an average increase from $1,681 to $1,827 every month.

In the greater Tampa Bay region, the annual cost-of-living adjustment comes as aging residents have been stretched thin.

“Most seniors are on a fixed income,” nonprofit director Ann Marie Winter said. “And so they're having to make choices about: Do I fill my tank of gas to go to the doctor, or do I put food on the table for myself or my spouse?”

Winter oversees the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas counties, where almost 390,000 residents rely on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. Three quarters of beneficiaries are retired workers with another nearly 12 percent eligible for disability benefits.

While the 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment is welcome, Winter said the population her agency serves would benefit from a larger increase. The latest data show that inflation in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro surpassed the national average, with a 10.5 percent year-over-year increase in prices.

With an average increase to benefits of $140 per month, Winter said inflation means that the purchasing power for everyday goods will remain the same for beneficiaries.

“So maybe now they're going to be able to afford that cat food, that milk that they need to buy, but it's not going to put any additional money aside — or in their pocket for other necessities,” she said.

Beneficiaries will be notified about their new benefit amounts by mail in early December or can find information online at www.ssa.gov/cola.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.