What Holly Schepisi earns in a day as a state senator no longer covers the cost to drive from her home in River Vale to Trenton and back. Between rising gas prices and tolls, a round trip rings up to around $170, compared to the $135 a day she makes as a legislator representing parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.  

“My husband and I joke that we’re gerbils in a wheel: No matter how much more we make, our set expenses are skyrocketing, with gas, property taxes, car insurance premiums, health insurance,” said Schepisi, a Republican. “For the average person living in Bergen County, it’s become very tough to make ends meet.”

Her district office continually fields calls from people who “struggled through the pandemic, were getting back on their feet and are now just getting crushed by inflation,” Schepisi said.  

Families across the country are feeling squeezed as inflation reached a new 40-year high, climbing 8.6%, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Prices for goods rose 6.3% in the last year in the region including New York, Newark and Jersey City according to the report. Food receipts jumped 9.6% over that period. Home utility costs surged upwards by 22.9%. Fuel costs catapulted 53.7%. 

How are New Jerseyans scraping by in a state with an already high cost of living? They are delaying dreams of homeownership, home repairs and family reunions. They’re scouring the state for odd jobs. And families feel like they can’t catch a break. Here’s how some are trying to cope.


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