Gas prices leveled out this week well above the $4 mark as rideshare giants Uber and Lyft announced temporary fuel surcharges to offset record-high prices at pumps across the country. Drivers will receive 100% of those charges.
The price of oil also temporarily reversed its upward trajectory, dipping below $100 per barrel on Tuesday, March 15, according to Brent Crude. Crude oil prices fell by roughly 20% since last week, driven largely be fears of reduced demand amid China’s COVID-19 lockdowns in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Oil prices stayed below the $100 per barrel threshold until Thursday morning, when Russia again ramped up attacks against Ukraine. The International Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that, beginning in April, roughly 3 million barrels a day of Russian oil supply could be eliminated from global markets due to Western sanctions and other international players distancing themselves from Russia.
Pittsburgh by the numbers
– Current price: $4.31
— Pennsylvania average: $4.37
— Pennsylvania gas tax: $0.59 per gallon (#1 highest among all states)
– Week change: -$0.04 (-0.9%)
– Year change: +$1.25 (+40.8%)
– Historical expensive gas price: $4.35 (3/10/22)
Metros with the most expensive gas
#1. San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles, CA: $5.96
#2. Napa, CA: $5.93
#3. San Francisco, CA: $5.90
Metros with the least expensive gas
#1. Lawton, OK: $3.65
#2. Amarillo, TX: $3.67
#3. Joplin, MO: $3.69
States with the highest gas tax per gallon
#1. Pennsylvania: $0.59
#2. California: $0.53
#3. Washington: $0.52
States with the lowest gas tax per gallon
#1. Alaska: $0.0895
#2. Hawaii: $0.16
#3. Virginia: $0.162
GREENSBURG, Pa. —
Rising gas prices are having an immediate impact on the bottom line for businesses that rely on deliveries.
Tom Luscombe is the third-generation owner of Greensburg Floral. He told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 that more than 90% of his business comes from deliveries throughout Westmoreland County.
“There is no budget for it,” Luscombe said. “As the prices go up daily, it affects the flowers coming in and the flowers going out.”
Luscombe said the shop changed its business model during the pandemic and now has less staff, which means more hours for everyone else. He said increased fuel costs will ultimately trickle down to customers, but he’s hoping better days are ahead.
“Hang in there and pray. That’s what we’re doing,” Luscombe said.
Gas prices in the Pittsburgh area went up nearly 50 cents per gallon for regular in the past week. For delivery drivers, it’s an added cost of doing business.
“It just cost me $96 to fill up and before it was in the $60-70 range,” delivery driver Rich O’Neal said.
O’Neal is a retired police officer who now delivers for apps such as Roadie and Shipt.
“The rate they are paying me isn’t going up, but the rate I’m paying to do this sure is,” O’Neal said. “It’s going to reach a point where it’s not cost-effective to do this anymore.”
- “It has been another good quarter for the company,” BP CEO Bernard Looney told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Tuesday.
- A surge in global gas markets through the final months of 2021, coupled with an oil price rally to seven-year highs, has seen the world’s largest fossil fuel giants rake in bumper revenues.
- It comes at a time when millions of U.K. households are facing a record-breaking increase in their energy bills amid a cost of living crisis.
Food supply shortages impacted local businesses
The Charley family owns three Shop ‘n Save locations in Westmoreland County.
“It’s something that we’re fighting every day,” Tom Charley said. “We’re sourcing from multiple vendors. We’re using more vendors today than we ever have.”
Charley said his store only received half of their weekly order from their distributors this past week. It’s an issue stores have faced with various products throughout the pandemic.
“People have been very understanding and they know now what to expect at the store, but it’s very frustrating when you put in an order to fill up the store and you only get half the order,” Charley said.
National experts have cited staffing, rising COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant and winter weather across the country as the reasons behind the latest stretch of supply chain problems.
Those concerns, coupled with recent inflation trends have also caused the price of groceries to jump.
“All of the costs are going up and it’s hitting us with cost increases too,” Charley said. “We are being very deliberate in trying to find the best deals we can possibly find and it’s a challenge.”
Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 reached out to a spokesperson for U.S. Foods, one of the area’s largest suppliers, but did not hear back.
Several state and local politicians have voiced their support for the workers.
PITTSBURGH — A group of baristas at a Pittsburgh-area coffee chain claim the company fired a worker after the group publicly announced its intent to form a union.
Several Coffee Tree baristas outlined their desire to form a union in videos posted online. A day later, Liam Tinker said he was let go.
CHURCHILL, Pa. —
UPDATE: Churchill Borough Council voted 5-2 to approve the proposed Amazon Warehouse during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Hillwood Development wants to create a $300 million Amazon warehouse at the former Westinghouse site. There will be more than 1,000 employees and nearly 700 truck trips per day.
For months, there has been a debate in the borough over it.
“Please do no harm,” said Sandy Fox, who said she lives less than 1,000 feet from the site. “Please protect our lives and protect our environment.”
Supporters said the facility will bring new jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues that would help Woodland Hills School District.
Others put signs in their yards and protested in front of the borough building,
Those in opposition said there are more than 400 homes surrounding the site and two nearby schools. Their top concerns are excessive pollution and traffic.
“This development will be harmful to people and that’s all they need,” Fox said.
On Tuesday, the Churchill Borough manager declined to talk on the record but said the special meeting was virtual. Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 reached out to the developer.
Fox said if the council votes to move forward with the plans for the Amazon site, she and a group of neighbors will appeal the decision.
“We’re not giving up because this is too important,” she said.
PITTSBURGH — PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is closing another 18 branches across eight states, according to regulatory filings that surfaced on Wednesday.
Two are in Pennsylvania, including one in Millvale. The other is in Blue Bell, on the other side of the commonwealth.
PNC (NYSE:PNC) said the closures will occur on March 18. The Millvale branch is being consolidated with the Shaler Plaza location at 880 Butler Street, about 2.5 miles away.
Prices could go up by as much as 20% for some of your favorite items.
The U.S. will release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to combat climbing gas prices.
- The U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the White House said Tuesday.
- The move is a coordinated effort between energy-consuming nations including China and Japan to combat the rapid rise in energy prices.
- Prior to Tuesday’s announcement the Biden administration repeatedly said that it was looking at the tools at its disposal as prices at the pump hover around a seven-year high.
Democrats have released the text of their massive social spending bill, outlining many of the priorities of President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better plan
The 1684-page bill, released Thursday, comes just one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled optimism that various factions of the Democratic caucus were close to reaching a deal on the legislation.
“As we have insisted, we are close to agreement on the priorities and the topline of the legislation, which can and must pass the House and Senate,” Pelosi said in a letter to Democrats Wednesday. “At the same time, we are facing a crucial deadline for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework to pass.”
Pelosi expressed more optimism after the release of the bill, which comes in at a price tag of roughly $1,750,000,000,000, comparing it to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Senate Democrats have unveiled a plan to tax the gains billionaires make on the assets they own, as a way to help pay for President Biden’s social spending plan.
Democrats say the billionaire tax alone could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to help offset the cost of the final bill, which could end up around $1.5 trillion. It is part of a broader tax framework that also includes a new minimum tax on large corporations.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the proposal a way to consistently tax billionaires who typically avoid paying annual income taxes.
“There are two tax codes in America,” Wyden said in a statement. “The first is mandatory for workers who pay taxes out of every pay check. The second is voluntary for billionaires who defer paying taxes for years, if not indefinitely.”
The plan comes as lawmakers are scrambling to finalize the legislation this week. Biden and top congressional Democrats say they need to reach a deal on a framework and also move forward on a stalled $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
More than 18 months into this pandemic, shortages and delays are still everywhere.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — KDKA has learned that Amazon is planning to hire hundreds of new workers as it expands in the Pittsburgh area.
Amazon prides itself on the fast delivery of online orders. But to do that, the world’s largest online retail store has to have fulfillment and distribution centers in most major markets. Pittsburgh is no exception.
With the opening of its newest facility in Imperial last week, Amazon says it needs more people on its payroll in Pittsburgh. The company told KDKA’s Jon Delano that it will announce Tuesday the total number of workers it will be hiring, and it will be “substantial.”
CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) —
More than $104 million in Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went uncollected last year as the agency fully converted to all-electronic tolling, with the millions of motorists who don’t use E-ZPass having a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding without paying under the “toll-by-plate” license plate camera system.
An internal turnpike report issued in July and obtained by The Associated Press through a Right-to-Know Law request showed nearly 11 million out of the total of about 170 million turnpike rides generated no revenue for the agency in the year that ended May 31.
“We take this issue very seriously. It is a big number, there’s no question,” turnpike Chief Executive Mark Compton said. “But we, as an organization, are leaving no stone unturned in the way in which we’re going after that leakage.”
Toll revenue “leakage” – an industry euphemism for uncollected tolls – has become the focus of turnpike agencies across the country as the use of E-ZPass transponders and license plate cameras continues to spread.
It is a particular problem for the debt-strapped Pennsylvania Turnpike, where more than half of its total revenue goes to pay borrowing costs and tolls have more than quadrupled in 12 years for the minority of motorists who don’t have E-Z Pass to pay for rides.
Last year, license plates could not be identified in 1.8 million Pennsylvania Turnpike rides, bills were undeliverable in just over 1 million instances, and motor vehicle agencies failed to provide vehicle owner addresses more than 1.5 million times. An additional 6.7 million transactions were marked as “not paid.”
After tolls and fees go uncollected for about three years, the turnpike writes them off.
The owner of an Illinois retail and wholesale meat store told FOX Business he has been increasing prices for his products as the industry grapples with higher raw material costs, global supply chain challenges and a rebound in demand.
This as the Biden administration announced it plans to take a tougher stance toward meatpacking companies the White House argues are causing higher prices for meat at grocery stores.
Richard Whittingham, the owner of R. Whittingham & Sons Meat Co., told Jeff Flock during an interview on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” on Thursday that he doesn’t blame the processors for the spike in prices, but acknowledged that “competition never hurts anybody,” noting that “that is what built our country.”
In the post, the aides acknowledged that “factors like increased consumer demand have played a role” in higher prices, but argued that “the price increases are also driven by a lack of competition at a key bottleneck point in the meat supply chain: meat-processing.”
The aides wrote that “Just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for each of these three products, and the data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic.”
The post pointed to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which noted that just four firms “control approximately 55-85% of the market” for beef, pork, and poultry, pointing out that the figure reflects “dramatic consolidation of the industry” over the last 50 years.
It is Sept. 7, and El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law has officially come into effect three months after its parliament passed the historic vote. The Central American nation is now the first country to recognize Bitcoin (BTC) as legal tender.
Tweeting earlier in the day, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele remarked “3 minutos para hacer historia — In 3 minutes, we make history.”
However, day one of El Salvador’s Bitcoin experiment has been somewhat marred by server capacity errors suffered by the state-issued Chivo wallet.
Addressing the situation, President Bukele remarked:
“For a few moments it won’t work @chivowallet, we have disconnected it while increasing the capacity of the image capture servers. The installation problems that some people had were for that reason. We prefer to correct it before reconnecting it.”
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, El Salvador has purchased 200 BTC, taking its Bitcoin holdings to 400 “coins.” The country’s parliament recently passed a $150-million Bitcoin fund to facilitate conversions from BTC to United States dollars.
With the push and pull of a 25-foot claw attached to heavy equipment stationed on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Greensburg, workers started the laborious task of bringing down a dilapidated former restaurant building Sunday morning. The three-story building that once housed the former Derby’s Delicatessen but has been vacant for a decade.
The bill’s Senate passage will be a major step for Democrats as they try to push through a sprawling economic agenda.POINTS
- The Senate is expected to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Tuesday as Democrats move ahead with their economic agenda.
- The chamber will next move to pass a budget resolution that would allow Democrats to approve their $3.5 trillion spending bill without Republican votes.
- The House is waiting to take up either plan until the Senate approves both.
New members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors expressed concerns with the plan, but it’s moving ahead.
Two of the newly confirmed members of the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors spoke out Friday against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to slow delivery of first-class mail.
But the board took no steps to stop or even modify the 10-year plan despite the concerns expressed by the board members and regulators.
Ronald Stroman, one of three new governors named by President Biden, said that intentionally slowing first-class mail and package delivery by changing service standards is “strategically ill-conceived, creates dangerous risks that are not justified by the relatively low financial return, and doesn’t meet our responsibility as an essential part of America’s critical infrastructure.”
Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general, noted at the Board of Governors open meeting that the country was “only beginning to emerge from a global pandemic” and is now struggling with the delta variant and that mail delivery was below pre-pandemic levels.
Washington (CNN)The Biden administration is extending the pause on federal student loan payments one last time until January 31.The pandemic relief benefit was set to expire on September 30 after an unprecedented 19-month suspension. The freeze was initially put in place by Congress and then extended by both the Trump and Biden administrations.“As our nation’s economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement.Borrower balances have effectively been frozen for more than a year, with no payments required on federal loans since March 2020. During this time, interest has stopped adding up — saving the average borrower about $2,000 over the first year — and collections on defaulted debt have been on hold.
Dozens of Pittsburgh Public School teachers could be furloughed in just a few weeks.
According to Pittsburgh Public, 33 teachers and one non-professional are impacted. The furloughs would start on Aug. 18, less than two weeks from now.
The district notified the 34 people by the first of the month. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said this has some feeling nervous.
“They have families, homes, mortgages, rents and things to pay,” Union Parliamentarian and Staff Representative Harold Grant said.
He said the notices went to teachers who started working in the district within the past couple of years.
“This is something that we would never want for anyone,” Grant said.
PITTSBURGH — Washington, D.C.-based ibex, a business process outsourcing firm, announced expansion plans for the Pittsburgh region as it looks to open a new customer experience delivery center in Wilkins Township. It marks the second expansion in the region for the company, which currently maintains offices near Pittsburgh International Airport.
Ibex said it is looking for 400 new workers to fill the various roles it needs at the 33,000-square-feet of space the new center will occupy when it opens on Oct. 1 at 500 Penn Center Blvd. It operates a total of 31 of these centers across the U.S. as well as in Jamaica, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines and Senegal.
“We are excited to open our new site here in the greater Pittsburgh region, strengthening our commitment to the city, while bringing hundreds of diverse career opportunities to the area,” Greg Rajchel, executive vice president, commercial and client operations, ibex, said in a press release. “Since 2004, Pittsburgh has been a critical driver of the growth and success ibex is experiencing as a leader in the BPO industry and the CX partner of choice for digital-first Blue Chip and New Economy clients.”
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced two guaranteed income bills on Friday aimed at sending $1,200 monthly checks to most Americans before the end of the decade, according to reports.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has revealed for the first time that his firm SpaceX owns Bitcoin (BTC).
The company is yet to officially announce how much Bitcoin it has purchased, however Musk’s other company Tesla purchased $1.5B of the cryptocurrency earlier this year which sparked a major Bitcoin price rally.
That rally came to an abrupt end after Tesla stopped taking Bitcoin payments due to environmental concerns, but speaking at “The ₿ Word” — a virtual Bitcoin (BTC) event — the erratic tech billionaire suggested Tesla was on the verge of accepting the cryptocurrency again following promising signs the percentage of renewable energy used for mining was increasing.
The changing narrative of Bitcoin going “green” may help reignite a rally, with Coin Metrics co-founder Nic Carter telling CNBC a few hours ago that BTC’s fundamentals are getting better in terms of sustainability.
Musk appeared alongside Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and moderator Steve Lee from Square Crypto. Musk did not reveal any additional details about SpaceX’s purchase apart from saying:
“I do own Bitcoin, Tesla owns Bitcoin, SpaceX owns Bitcoin, and I do personally own a bit of Ethereum and Dogecoin of course.”
Regent Seven Seas Cruises released the fares for sale at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday. By 11 a.m., all the spots had been snapped up by people eager to spend more than four months on a cruise ship. The strong interest may be a positive sign for the cruise industry as it tries to rebound from the pandemic.
The voyage, which will span 34,500 nautical miles, includes 66 ports of call, as the Seven Seas Mariner will visit 31 countries and four continents. Passengers will also see 61 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The child tax credit had always been an empty gesture to millions of parents like Tamika Daniel.
That changed Thursday when the first payment of $1,000 hit Daniel’s bank account — and dollars started flowing to the pockets of more than 35 million families around the country. Daniel, a 35-year-old mother of four, didn’t even know the tax credit existed until President Joe Biden expanded it for one year as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed in March.
Previously, only people who earned enough money to owe income taxes could qualify for the credit. Daniel went nearly a decade without a job because her eldest son is autistic and needed her. So she got by on Social Security payments. And she had to live at Fairfield Courts, a public housing project that dead-ends at Interstate 64 as the highway cuts through the Virginia capital of Richmond.
But the extra $1,000 a month for the next year could be a life-changer for Daniel, who now works as a community organizer for a Richmond nonprofit. It will help provide a security deposit on a new apartment.
“It’s actually coming right on time,” she said. “We have a lot going on. This definitely helps to take a load off.”
Biden has held out the new monthly payments, which will average $423 per family, as the key to halving child poverty rates. But he is also setting up a broader philosophical battle about the role of government and the responsibilities of parents.
Democrats see this as a landmark program along the same lines as Social Security, saying it will lead to better outcomes in adulthood that will help economic growth. But many Republicans warn that the payments will discourage parents from working and ultimately feed into long-term poverty.
Some 15 million households will now receive the full credit. The monthly payments amount to $300 for each child who is 5 and younger and $250 for those between 5 and 17. The payments are set to lapse after a year, but Biden is pushing to extend them through at least 2025.
The president ultimately would like to make the payments permanent — and that makes this first round of payments a test as to whether the government can improve the lives of families.
Biden invited beneficiaries to the White House to mark the first round of payments, saying in a Thursday speech that the day carried a historic resonance because of the boost it will give families across the nation.
“This would be the largest ever one-year decrease in child poverty in the history of the United States of America,” the president said. “Millions of children and their families, starting today, their lives are about to change for the better. And our country would be better off for it as well.”
Annual benefit hike could top 6% due to fast-rising inflation. But retirees would have to wait until 2022 to see it.
The 69 million Americans who collect Social Security are on track to get the biggest cost-of-living hike since 1983, with one advocacy group for senior citizens projecting a 6.1% increase to benefits due to surging inflation.
The bad news: Recipients will have to wait for that bump because the Social Security Administration adjusts its payments only once a year, starting with December benefits that are paid in January. That means seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries wouldn’t receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) until January 2022.
In the meantime, prices forto at a time when Social Security recipients got what was among the meagerest of COLA adjustments in recent years — a 1.3% increase for 2021. As the pandemic eases, a rapid reopening of the economy is fueling pent-up spending for goods and services that in many cases remain in short supply, prompting inflation to compared with a year earlier.
Former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann told “Watters’ World” Saturday that the federal government wants Americans to “check our Bill of Rights” at the door when it comes to COVID vaccines.All of America is based upon the fact that we have rights against the government. And they want us, just as a matter of idea, [to] give up all of our first 10 Bill of Rights, our civil liberties, and say, “We’ll take it from here, we’re the federal government.” Because don’t let anybody suffer any delusions about this. There is a database. There will be a database, and everybody will be in that database. And it’s not just vaccine status, it will be your entire medical history. It will be connected to your finances. This is going to get bigger, bigger, bigger, so you stop it now, and you don’t give any information to any government questioner at your door.
The Department of Education canceled an additional $55.6 million in student loan debt for 1,800 student who were victims of a for-profit college fraud, bringing the total amount of canceled student loan debt by the Biden administration to $1.5 billion.
“Today’s announcement continues the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to standing up for students whose colleges took advantage of them,” Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, said in the department’s statement released Friday.
The latest loan cancellation is for students who attended Westwood College, Marinello Schools of Beauty and the Court Reporting Institute. This is the first time the department approved loan forgiveness to students who attended schools other than Corinthian Colleges, ITT Technical Institute and American Career Institute since 2017.
The White House is scheduled to issue an executive order Friday to promote competition throughout the U.S. economy in the most ambitious effort in generations to reduce the stranglehold of monopolies and concentrated markets in major industries.
The order — whose details POLITICO first reported last week — marks a major push by President Joe Biden’s administration to focus on competition as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic. It also offers a response to progressives’ criticisms that the federal government has focused too much on supporting banks and other corporations without concern about the effect on consumers, who have watched their choices dwindle over the years.