Martinez’s husband drives hundreds of miles a week to install countertops and flooring in homes as far as San Bernardino. She cares for the disabled at a nursing home not far from their Van Nuys home. Gas now costs the family about $400 a month, more than 15 percent of their total budget. It used to be less than $300 a month and that was tight. With bills already eating away most of their salary, the couple is sometimes sacrificing basic needs. “It’s hard,” Martinez explains. “The $20 that goes in the gas tank, I need to buy baby diapers. “The poor are the ones most affected by all this. The rich, they are OK. For them, they just pay more.” Aleman, who runs his lawn-care business out of his North Hollywood home, considers himself lucky. His wife, a teacher, can make up for the $1-an-hour loss in his salary – money that goes to fuel his work truck, his lawn mowers and weed trimmers. “I am talking to other gardeners and they are afraid they are going to lose clients (if they charge more). All we talk about is gasoline,” Aleman said. “I worry about my friends. They are hard-working people. They work hard for a little.” — Rachel Uranga, (818) 713-3741 [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 For many, it’s easy to absorb the cost. But for the working poor, the extra expenditure quickly eats up a small end-of-the-month stash that could otherwise be put toward clothes, shoes or savings. “Any additional rise in gas prices is going to have a substantial impact on the working poor,” said Michael Stoll, associate professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “For them, it’s going to have to come out of necessities like food.” Nearly one in five Los Angeles County families with children lives below the poverty line, according to 2004 Census figures. Many live in job-deficient areas and are forced to drive to more affluent neighborhoods for work. For them, taking the bus could cost them a better job or hours of lost time that could be spent on work. “A car is indispensable. Can you imagine how hard it would be for me to take a bus?” Martinez said, bouncing her 13-month-old daughter on her hip and loading groceries into the trunk of her Nissan Sentra. “The bus takes a long time and you have to wait for it.” The steady increase in gas prices has hit everyone, but it’s low-wage workers and those with small businesses that depend on gasoline who are most vulnerable to sharp jumps. Gardener Jaime Aleman is losing $1 an hour from his paycheck to gas. Lucy Martinez, a mother of two, can barely make ends meet at the end of the month. Siraj Khan, a handyman who feeds his five children with donated food, must choose between gasoline and other necessities. “I am not buying clothes, I am not buying things for the kids anymore,” said Khan, a Canoga Park resident. “I have a limited budget, limited money. I can’t afford it anymore.” Prices at the pump have climbed steadily and rest nearly $1 above last October’s average. Filling up a 12-gallon tank now costs about $10 more than it did at the beginning of the year.