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April 23, 2020
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 Inside this issue
  Executive Directors Message  


We have heard from a number of members who continue to be frustrated by the PPP loan process. This sentiment only escalated last week with the news that both the PPP and EIDL loan programs have been oversubscribed and lending would soon cease. As we reported previously, Congressional leaders have come to an agreement on a "Phase 3.5" relief package. The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday and we anticipate the House to follow today, with the President signing it into law later today. 

The bill allocates $320 billion to the PPP forgivable loan program ($350 billion was the initial appropriation). $60 billion of those loans will be dedicated to smaller banks in an effort to try and help smaller businesses with relationships to these local community banks. There is also an additional $60 billion dedicated to the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

In light of this news, it is important to note that we have heard from some members who have either NOT applied for PPP or EIDL relief, or have adopted a "wait and see" approach to seeking relief. I want to reiterate that despite the many frustrations and set-backs members are experiencing we strongly believe that everyone must engage in self-help and apply.   

Be prepared to take advantage of this next appropriation. Do your best to try to get this money as we know it will run out quickly again. Experts seem to agree that even though this is a substantial sum of money, they are still short by hundreds of billions compared with the demand. Some experts are saying that the money could be gone within the first 72 hours.

With this in mind, NJGCA reached out to banking officials and our valued MBPs to inquire about this newest relief package.  

The general consensus is as follows:

1 - You should still attempt to complete any PPP application with a financial institution you have a pre-existing banking relationship with. When PPP was first unveiled many smaller, local banks had no knowledge of the program and/or were unable to process applications (either because they were not an approved SBA lender or they were not equipped to do so). Since that time, many smaller, local lending institutions have been brought up to speed and are now lending. As such, it may be more advantageous for you to revisit 

2 - If you are unable to make headway with your personal bank lending institution, please consider contacting Scott Seidman, our MBP from Heartland Payment Systems, who is taking applications on behalf of a sister company, Heartland Capital. You can contact Scott via phone (908-334-4778) or email (scott.seidman@e-hps.com) to get the process started.

3 - No matter which lending institution you proceed with, it is of the utmost importance that you get an application in! Some members were discouraged over last week's news on the program's oversubscription, and stopped moving forward with a submission. Others were told by their banks that they weren't taking any new applications because funds were depleted. While both reactions are rational on the surface, if recent history has demonstrated anything, it is that these programs can be replenished by Congress as the need arises. If you don't have an application in, it cannot be processed when monies are available. In simpler terms, you need to get this application in to "hold your place" in the queue. That's really not an adequate representation of the actual process, but for our purposes, it will suffice. The money will go quickly, but even if it does, there could be future rounds of relief. Keep trying. Keep at it.  

Reach out to your bank and see if you can get your loan application filled out and put in line so it can be approved in the first burst after funding becomes available. We want to be clear, this is what we know as of this writing, and we are putting you on alert just to make sure you are ready to go. This could be at any time today, make sure you are ready.

No doubt you all saw the news on Monday when the price of oil plummeted so low that for the first time on record it had a negative price, meaning people were not just giving oil away they were willing to pay someone to take it away. This has led to a bunch of jokes asking 'when will the gas station offer to pay me to fill up?' 

In short, what really happened is that a financial services product crashed in price, not really oil itself. Speculators trade oil contacts on a per month basis, and April 20 was the deadline for the May contracts. That meant anyone holding that position in oil on that date would be required to take physical delivery of the oil in Oklahoma. Obviously a bunch of stock guys have no interest in doing that, so in every normal month they sell off the position to someone who really does want the actual oil. The problem is that with demand so low for the last month, all the storage all over the country is almost filled to capacity and the public isn't looking to use more in the near future. A bunch of speculators had been hoping prices would rebound before that date, and when they didn't they became desperate to offload the contracts, but couldn't find enough businesses that both could take delivery and wanted to. At one point, a trader paid out $37.63 a barrel in order to avoid taking delivery. The June contracts were at the same time trading between around $15 and $20 a barrel. Monday was the first day ever that prices had gone negative, going all the way back to 1870 according to one analysis. It may not be the last though, as storage worldwide continues to fill up but some companies and countries are continuing to pump. The whole debacle shows what a major role speculators play in the pricing of oil. 

Several members have reached out to us about an extension on the gas pump EMV requirement. This has been discussed for the past two weeks with our coalition partners in DC. This is not an issue that the government can fix because the EMV requirement is not a government requirement. The EMV requirement is being made by Visa and Mastercard requiring that chip technology be used at the pumps and where it is not, the merchant will assume all liability for any fraud, including identity theft and the costs associated with it. Inquiries to Visa and Mastercard have resulted with blanket denial of the request for an extension, especially since the original deadline was October 2017, Visa and Mastercard feel there has been ample time for gasoline retailers to have performed the necessary upgrades, even with the current Coronavirus crisis. 
With the discussion of a temporary ban on the self-serve prohibition law and high unemployment numbers comes the subject of job loss with the current economic situation. There is already worry that there will not be enough funds to cover everyone applying for unemployment. Without intervention, the state has enough funds for unemployment for 13 weeks. The state does have options to keep unemployment going for longer. It could take money from another part of the state budget, take out federal loans, or raise unemployment taxes. Raising unemployment taxes seems unlikely, given the current strain on businesses. 

This subject of a lack of employees at our gas stations was brought up to the Commissioner of Labor and he is very unsympathetic to our position. His exact comment is to go to the state coronavirus hiring portal, where you can list open positions at your business and connects open positions with hiring companies. The Commissioner of Labor maintains that there are thousands of unemployed candidates that would be willing to pump gas for you. 

The issue of temporarily lifting the ban on self-serve during the Coronavirus pandemic was prevalent in the media again this week. You can read and listen to what myself and fellow members have been saying to the media on our Coronavirus page. The Burlington County Times published a story which featured former NJGCA President Kashmir Gill. The article outlines the difficulties of keeping employees during the pandemic and how a move to self-serve would be beneficial to both the business and the customer. Tom Moran from NJ.com also published an opinion piece on Wednesday after speaking with him earlier this week about our push for temporary self-serve. While he clearly does not view our argument favorably, I appreciate that he did accurately outline all the facts of our argument and did admit in print that he simply did not want to pump his own gas, despite the fact that this would be a choice.  He feels guilty when he has a choice NOT pumping his own when he is out of state, and in New Jersey he doesn't have to feel guilty about being lazy.  Frankly, he makes our point even when openly opposing our position.
For those of you with c-stores, new legislation was introduced this week that would provide tax relief to convenience and grocery store workers who are helping to keep the country fed and running. The bill would establish a federal tax holiday for these employees from February 15 through June 15 for individuals making less than $75,000 annually. You can read more about the legislation HERE
Two more opportunities have come to our attention for you to obtain face masks and have your businesses cleaned. US Paratrooper Building Services reached out to us that they were pivoting over their regular construction equipment company to produce PPE during the pandemic. If you are in need of PPE, please email Michelle at michelle@njgca.org. You can view their products and prices on their website HERE. We were also put in contact with a cleaning company providing a special service. Nationwide Cleaners is a New Jersey based company that is offering a cleaning/sanitizing service to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will do any portion of your location in a thorough and efficient manner. If any members are interested please contact greg@njgca.org and he will follow up for you.
For those of you beginning your Ramadan celebrations today, I wish you a happy and blessed month. I hope this month brings all that celebrate peace and prosperity and most importantly good health in the current times. 

Be Well -  
Sal Risalvato
Executive Director




  Training Class Schedule  

All classes held at NJGCA HQ -- 4900 Route 33 West, Wall Township, NJ 07753

Two-Day Emissions Inspector Training Class
April 22nd & 23rd

Want your technicians to become a NJ Emissions Inspector? We can help!

Our new two-day class will provide all the information for becoming a NJ Emissions Inspector. Day one will consist of written test training and the State will administer the written test the very same day at our offices. Day two will be a hands-on training course to prepare you for the hands-on test. Class will run from 7:00am to 4:00pm on day 1. Class will begin at 12:30 PM on day 2. Cost is $479 for members.

April class registration click here




  News Around The State  

Why Oil at Negative $100 Isn't a Crazy Bet Anymore
Orbiting hundreds of miles above the Earth, the Sentinel-1 satellites are the eyes in the sky that show why U.S. oil prices dropped below zero and why much of the world is likely to follow. The satellite bounces radar signals off the massive metal tanks that store oil and that data is used to calculate how much crude is inside. It's coming back with an alarming message: oil storage is running out. It's something that's never happened before, and the market is only beginning to guess at what it'll mean. Experts say it could be a matter of weeks before there's no more room to store crude, an event called in industry parlance the "tank tops." The result would be oil prices near zero in many parts of the world, and in some cases they could go negative.

Rate Counsel Says Utilities Can't Spend a Dime of Ratepayer Money on EV Charging Infrastructure
The state Division of Rate Counsel is seeking to block two utilities from spending hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars on programs to build out the infrastructure needed to electrify the transportation sector. In separate filings with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, division director Stefanie Brand is asking the agency to mostly dismiss proposals by Public Service Electric & Gas and Atlantic City Electric to invest $364 million and $42 million to build out charging infrastructure in their respective territories.

Burlington City Gas Station Hit Hard By Coronavirus
The Badeshas' situation isn't an unfamiliar one. In the past month, several attendants across the state's 2,200 stations have quit due to fears of contracting the virus from customers while working in close proximity to them and handling their money. As a result, some businesses - like Fuel XPress for almost a month now - have closed shop, and several 24-hour gas stations statewide have dropped down to 14- or 12-hour days. New Jersey has not made any plans to relax its decades-old ban on self service, but according to Kashmir Gill, former president of the New Jersey Gas Retailers Association, a decision to do so could be beneficial for both employees and the public. "You never know whose money has what. Gas station attendants have tested COVID-positive, and then what happens to those 500 customers?" said Gill, whose Matawan, Middlesex County-based company Gill Energy owns about 70 gas stations in New Jersey and surrounding states. "When this started, initially, gas attendants, and we as owners, were OK," Gill said. "But when the governor announced emergency measures, attendants got concerned and didn't feel comfortable working. All of a sudden, people stopped coming to work."

N.J. Small Business Owners Can't Get Badly Needed Federal Loans Because They Pay High Rent
The list of frustration among business owners with the government's $350 billion loan program to help small businesses is long. Not only did it quickly run out of money, but some New Jersey business owners are worried the loan was never going to work for them in a state with such a high cost of living. The arbitrary thresholds make this a nightmare for businesses in New Jersey, paying among the highest in rent and property taxes in the nation. "The rent is so, so high in urban areas, the ratio of payroll to rent is way out of whack. How could you ever hit the ratio for forgiveness? It doesn't work for us," he added. Rep. Andy Kim said the 75/25 rule imposes unnecessary obstacles for small businesses, and was never supposed to be in the CARES Act. Instead, he said, it was added by the Trump administration without an explanation.

NFIB Survey: 80% Of PPP Applicants Did Not Get Selected For Funding
A survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses said four out of five small business owners who applied for the Paycheck Protection Program were not selected to receive money. And many are at a loss for where they are in the application process. The numbers are worse for the emergency grants that were supposed to come from the Small Business Administration through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, program. The survey found nine out of 10 small businesses that applied for an emergency grant of up to $10,000 were still waiting.

U.S. Oil Prices Fall Below $0 a Barrel
The oil market continues its decline as the coronavirus crisis saps demand and producers run out of places to store their excess barrels of crude. U.S. oil prices plunged below $0 a barrel Monday to $-37.63 a barrel, the lowest level since NYMEX opened oil futures trading in 1983, reports CNN. The selloff can be attributed to several things. The May futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the benchmark for U.S. crude, is about to expire, and most investors are focusing on the June contract, thinning out trading volume and feeding volatility, according to UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo. The June futures contract for WTI is trading around $22 per barrel, but that's still sharply lower for the day. The extreme pressure on the WTI contract for May highlights continued concerns about the supply and demand dynamics plaguing the oil market.

Oil Prices Go Negative - And Washington Is Paralyzed Over What To Do
Airlines, restaurants, retailers, farmers and a slew of other industries are getting billions of dollars in bailouts as the U.S. economy contracts because of the coronavirus pandemic - but America's oil companies are hitting a dry hole. U.S. oil futures prices fell to their lowest-ever level by far on Monday, at -$37.63 per barrel, meaning owners of the futures contracts were paying to offload them. It broke the previous low price record near $10 a barrel set in 1986 and comes as policymakers struggled to address the glut of crude that has seen the industry reverse a decade-long boom and sink into a deep recession that threatens to push dozens of companies into bankruptcy.

Banks Warn That New Small-Business Funding Could Evaporate In 2 Days
Lawmakers are nearing a deal to restart an emergency small-business loan program that exhausted its funding last week - but it may buy only a few days before the program screeches to a halt once again. Lenders are warning their customers they might not be able to secure loans even if Congress provides an additional $300 billion as soon as this week. Banking industry representatives say the program has a burn rate of $50 billion per day and needs closer to $1 trillion to meet demand, with hundreds of thousands of applications pending.

Oil Is Getting Crushed Again With One Futures Contract Down 90% To Record Low Under $2
U.S. crude prices plunged to their lowest level in history as traders continue to fret over a slump in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The price of the nearest oil futures contract, which expires Tuesday, was the hardest hit, detaching from later month futures contracts with a drop of more than 90%. This suggests that some believe there could be a recovery later in the year.

Virus Exclusion Clause By Insurance Companies Leaves Some NJ Businesses In The Dust
Some business owners across the state are furious after finding out they won't be receiving money from their insurance companies after buying expensive policies they thought covered all unexpected interruptions, including virus outbreaks. . .When Gov. Phil Murphy announced on March 16 that bars and restaurants must close, he thought he would receive money from his insurance company to help pay his six employees. Instead, he says he was told that wouldn't be the case because of a clause in the contract excluding virus outbreaks from the coverage.
He was forced to temporarily lay-off his employees.

Vape Shops Said A Flavor Ban Would End Them. Coronavirus Has Only Made Things Worse.
As New Jersey officials watch for the forecasted peak in coronavirus cases later this month, another date looms: April 20, the day when vape shops must stop selling flavored products. . . The measure marked the nation's first permanent flavor ban, going further than several emergency orders some states issued last year as a mysterious vaping health crisis took hold in the fall. Rhode Island has since made its temporary flavor ban permanent, too. The illness put 2,807 people into hospitals and killed 68, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . And vape shops, largely small businesses employing a few thousand people across the state, have promised the ban will thrust them into bankruptcy. It will also rob the state of tax revenue as people shift to the web or stores over state lines to buy the products.

New Jersey, We Need To Pump Our Own Gas - Temporarily | Opinion
I am about to launch into a pitch for New Jerseyans pumping their own gasoline. I say this as a temporary convert because for decades I have vehemently opposed any attempt to have New Jersey join the rest of the 49 states and allow self-pumping. But I am persuaded that COVID-19 demands temporarily lifting that restriction. I didn't come to this conclusion all by myself. I got it from Sal Risalvato, executive director of New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, and Automotive Association (NJGCA). Historically, Risalvato, the NJGCA and I were on the same page. But right now they're convinced self-pumping is essential, and for more than a month, Risalvato has been making that case to Gov. Phil Murphy. He hasn't had a positive response yet. Or any response.

Could $1 Gas Sweep the Nation?
About 425 stations out of 130,000 were selling gas for less than a buck earlier this week, according to Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) data. That's up sharply from about 100 stations last week. Approximately 1,300 stations have gas hovering near the dollar mark. Most of the remaining 75% of U.S. service stations are posting gas prices for under $2. AAA registered the national average at $1.84, a significant drop from $2.26 a month earlier. "Gasoline prices in the United States are going to move lower the rest of this month and into May," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for OPIS. "I'd say there's a 50-50 chance we hit $1.25 as a national average."

Beer, Cigarettes See Bump During COVID-19 Crisis
While retailers on the ground may not be surprised, initial data from Nielsen showed consumers are turning to the convenience-store channel for beer and cigarettes, as they settle into their homes under coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, an associate with the New York-based data-collection firm said during the session, How Coronavirus Is Reshaping Consumer Demands for Convenience, at the just-released NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Virtual Experience.


  Energy Information Agency Weekly Retail Gasoline Prices  
Each week, the Energy Information Administration publishes a list of average gasoline prices for the previous three weeks. NJGCA will begin including this list with the Weekly Road Warrior. Remember, these prices are reflective of self-serve everywhere except NJ.


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