New Yorkers struggle as gas and utility prices soar


ALBANY—High fuel costs are hurting vulnerable New York residents, many of whom are struggling to pay their bills or cut trips to the grocery store as New York lawmakers negotiate behind closed doors whether to suspend gasoline and diesel fuel taxes as a way to help.

At the highest peak in March, the price per gallon reached about $4.47 statewide, but has since fallen to about $4.30, according to Gas Buddy, a service that tracks fuel numbers.

High gas prices, which are also hitting inflation at record highs, are sparking intense debate on Capitol Hill as many lawmakers want to suspend taxes for at least nine months so benefits extend beyond November. , when they are re-elected.

There are more than 12 million licensed drivers in New York City – and for those who drive, they pay record sums to fill up their tanks. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, recently introduced legislation that would suspend gasoline taxes for up to a year and reduce the cost by more than 40 cents per gallon.

Senate sources have said there could be a deal to suspend gasoline taxes for nine months, but nothing has been decided.

Earlier this week, Santabarbara spent time handing out $20 gas gift cards to volunteers at the Amen Place Soup Kitchen in Amsterdam. The organization is one of many companies with tight financial results that are feeling the negative effects of soaring gas prices.

The nonprofit relies on drivers to transport food items from donor retailers in the capital region, bringing those donations back to the soup kitchen’s pantry, where those in need can stock up.

Over the past eight years, the pantry has become a priority for the organization.

“We found out a long time ago that giving people a week’s worth of groceries was much more beneficial than giving them a few hot dogs for lunch,” said Chris Carpenter, the soup kitchen’s senior coordinator.

The organization has its own vehicles and fills up with gas so volunteers can collect items. But there are those who use their own car and cover the cost with personal funds. Volunteers are needed for pickups approximately six days a week.

An added burden is rising inflation, which hit a 40-year high in February.

In Montgomery County, the soup kitchen is in an area notorious for food insecurity, where it ranks second in the state for this problem.

In this area, almost 20% of the inhabitants live below the poverty line, which makes the service provided by the food pantry essential as it attracts more customers due to the increase in gas prices.

“We have a lot of people on public assistance in this area,” Carpenter said. “When you have a whole bunch of factories and warehouses, but you have rents that have gone up dramatically with expenses, it’s hard for the single parent with two kids to stay afloat.”

Bill Ferris, legislative director of AARP in New York, said utility costs were crippling many households, especially those with moderate or low incomes.

“When one in five households in New York City is 60 days behind on their utility bill, for AARP and many others, that’s a utility arrears crisis,” Ferris said, noting that approximately 226,000 households are late paying utility bills collectively exceeding $355 million. “This needs to be resolved by the governor and the legislature because this is a statewide crisis that requires leadership.”

Ferris said the utility crisis, coupled with inflation and high gas prices, is forcing many people to “make very difficult decisions for households” about where to save money, including possibly including fewer trips to a grocery store.

“Essentials are increasing, and one of the most important is the ability to heat and cool your home,” Ferris said. “Add that to the inflation we are facing; people need help.”

Lawmakers in Connecticut, Georgia and Florida recently suspended state gasoline taxes. Lawyers in New York are waiting to be added to this list.

The nonprofit – facing the same problems as similar organizations that rely on donations and volunteers – has not cut collections, but is reassessing its operational strategies in an attempt to raise more money. The organization uses monetary donations to cover the cost of fuel. Before prices went up, the organization was spending about $500 a month on gasoline.

These expenses have doubled.


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