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As prices continue to rise, North Forkers find ways to cope with inflation

Edgar Torres has lived in Greenport for almost 20 years. For the past five, despite having a car, he’s been taking the bus or train, six days a week, to his job at Roanoke Plaza Liquor to offset the rising cost of gasoline.

“I drive when I need to, but to go to work it’s been about four to five years I haven’t been driving,” Mr. Torres said in Spanish.

Inflation has now risen to its highest rate in decades, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — and North Forkers are feeling its effects. The Consumer Price Index in the New York area has risen 6.3% over the last year, according to the labor department.

Kara McNeil’s family lives in Calverton. She plans to return to Long Island after finishing graduate studies at Boston University to become a physician assistant -— and she plans to seek a higher starting salary when she begins her job search. 

“I’m definitely going to be asking for more money than I thought I would be needing to ask for from a job just to make up for cost of living, here on Long Island especially,” Ms. McNeil said. “The price of everything skyrocketing is just making me rethink what my base salary should look like; that’s the biggest effect it’s had on me.”

Department of Labor data shows that over the last 12 months, the “all items index” increased by 8.6% before seasonal adjustment. The DOL’s May 2022 report found that the increase was broad-based, with indexes for shelter, gasoline and food being the largest contributors.

Vicki Trapani has lived in Southold for 16 years, and works in retail at Tanger Outlets. She and her family are cutting costs by staying in on weekends and restricting travel strictly to work and back. She’s also always on the lookout for the cheapest gas station. Although she lives near a gas station in Southold, if she finds gas is cheaper at Costco in Riverhead she’ll purchase it there.

“You’re changing the way you eat, you’re eating less meat, whatever seems to be better priced,” Ms. Trapani said. “You’re really just looking at prices, looking at coupons, because it’s getting crazy — and you can’t find things, too.”

Other ways North Forkers are dealing with the effects of inflation include limiting how much food they purchase, being creative in their routes when running errands to avoid unnecessary trips and wasting gas and cutting down on bills for extras like cable TV, streaming services and more.

President Joe Biden has begun to combat spiking prices with various long- and short-term actions aimed at lowering both costs for families and the deficit, according to the inflation plan available on the White House website.

The White House plans to address gas prices by releasing a million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next six months. According to the plan, the administration has also rallied with allies to release an additional 60 million barrels of oil from other countries’ reserves, as well as calling on Congress to charge oil producers fees for idle wells and non-producing acreage on federal lands. The hope is that companies sitting on excess capacity will choose to start releasing or producing oil rather than pay a fee.

In terms of food prices, the federal plan outlines actions intended to crack down on illegal price fixing, enforce antitrust laws in the meat and poultry processing sector, invest federal resources to stimulate competition in meat processing and provide over $1 billion in relief to small businesses and agricultural workers hurt by COVID-19.

According to the plan, action is also being taken to reduce the cost of everyday goods by repairing infrastructure, supply chains and manufacturing.

The plan also tackles lowering housing cost. It calls on Congress to invest in building more than one million affordable homes, expanding and improving federal financing for the construction of new housing and using existing federal funding to reward communities that eliminate needless barriers that prevent it from being built.

The plan also details efforts to lower prescription drug and health care costs, reduce the costs of child care and long-term care and more. To see the full plan visit whitehouse.gov.

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