GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Inflation rates have hit parents and teachers wallets ahead of the back-to-school shopping rush.

July’s Consumer Price Index showed the annual inflation rate in the U.S. slowed more than expected; however, food and other back-to-school supplies remain higher than this time last year.

“They’re still going to be more expensive than last year,” said Dan Giedeman with Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business. “But maybe the sticker shock might not be quite as bad as what people are thinking.”

Food prices remain the highest, with inflation at 9% higher than July of 2021. This comes as the U.S. ended its pandemic-era free school lunches. School supplies and educational books are up about 2.5% from year to date and clothing prices are up 5%.

“The pandemic actually caused a drop in clothing prices and then they jumped back up,” Geideman said.

He added that clothing prices a decade ago are similar to what consumers pay today.

Some area businesses have offered deals and specials to help teachers alleviate some of the extra classroom costs. At Meijer, teachers can use a 15% off coupon year-round for classroom supplies. DeGraaf Interiors will host a free, remnant giveaway Wednesday for teachers.

“Overall people will be spending more for back-to-school stuff, but not as bad I think they’re perceiving they’re going to have to spend,” Geideman said.

Some local organizations are hosting events to give away free school supplies. Find an event near you here.

WHITMER PROPOSES TAX RELIEF

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed suspending the state sales tax on school supplies on Tuesday. She said the move would bring Michigan families some relief, but lawmakers in Lansing say it’s too little, too late.

The proposed tax cut, which will need to be approved by the Republican-led state legislature, would help families and educators save on classroom expenses and get kids the tools they need to learn, like pencils and computers.

The leader of the Michigan Retailers Association applauded the move, but said it wouldn’t have much of an impact, even if lawmakers change the law quickly.

“We applaud the governor’s efforts to alleviate parents’ challenges with high inflation by suggesting a back-to-school sales tax holiday, but recognize it’s too late into the shopping season to make an impact, even if the law could be changed in time,” MRA President and CEO William Hallan said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, described the move as a “slap in the face.”

“Months ago, Governor Whitmer vetoed our bipartisan plan to lower taxes for a family of four by at least 13-hundred dollars. Now, she’s offering a plan that might save them 54 dollars. That’s not help – it’s a slap in the face,” Shrikey said in a statement.

Whitmer defended the timing of the proposal.

“Families are trying to get their kids ready for the new school year. Some have already started, others are going happen right after Labor Day, and it’s important that we give people some relief right now,” Whitmer told News 8. “So proposing and encouraging the legislature to pass these bills, they’ve been introduced, they’ve been sitting in the legislature for a while, but the legislature has not been around much this summer. They’re coming back tomorrow, we could take action quickly and we could give people some relief.”

Whitmer said if the legislature pass the bills they could take immediate effect after signing them into law. Republicans like Rep. Matt Hall from Marshall say they will continue to “come up with real, common-sense solutions that will help workers and families.”