November 23, 2022

High gas prices are a pain point for Sarasota businesses

According to new data from AAA, average gas price in florida approach $5 a gallon. The state average jumped 18 cents last week, hitting an all-time high of $4.76 a gallon on Sunday. It now costs $71 to fill an average 15 gallon tank. It’s 66% more expensive than a year ago.

Immediate relief seems unlikely. According to AAA, gasoline made solid gains in the futures market last week, which generally translates into higher prices at the pump.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise to see retailers raise prices an additional 20 cents” this week, said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA’s Auto Club group. “At this rate, it looks like there’s very little resistance to higher pump prices. Five dollars a gallon has quickly become a very real possibility this summer.”

Sarasota workers are feeling the pain.

“It’s definitely affecting people here, especially in the service industry,” says Heather Kasten, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Rising fuel prices come at a time when many companies are beginning to bring employees back to the office, even part-timers. Kasten says a few of the chamber member companies are offering workers the option to work from home one or two days a week to help offset the cost of driving to work. But, she admits, that option isn’t available to people who have to be on a job site every day.

Kim Savage, public information officer for Sarasota Memorial Hospitalwrites in an email that the hospital has actively sought ways to alleviate the economic crisis for its workers, including allowing some of its non-clinical teams to work remotely.

“Among the two measures, we also provided employees with gift cards for gas stations and grocery stores, and increased the average wage increase and paid vacation they can earn this year,” she says. “We also gave staff gift cards this year that they can use in our hospital cafeteria and coffee shops.”

But while the region also grapples with an affordable housing crisis, Kasten says lack of housing and high gas prices go hand in hand. The overall median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Sarasota County is $1,894, while the national average is $1,320, a difference of 43.5%.

“People who have had to move to North Port, Parrish or Palmetto to find affordable housing have to drive their dads to fill many of our service jobs,” Kasten says. “High gasoline prices are a huge tax on everyone, but especially those who don’t earn the highest salaries.”