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Prices at the pump hurting small businesses

No matter what the price at the pump reads, some small business owners have to fill their tanks in order to get their work done. Juan Verduzco, the owner of 24/7 Movers Vista, is one of them.

“This truck, I would say around $240 to $250 to fill the tank,” Verduzco said.

Before gas was averaging over $6 per gallon, Verduzco said, he could fill up his moving trucks for about half of what he's paying now. Another hard part of his business is traveling from Vista to jobs in San Diego, National City or Santee with a minimum cost service of three hours.

“We only get paid for three hours," he said. "So it's a two-hour drive back and forth. All the money that you're supposed to make, it kinda stays with the gas and the employees, so not much money that comes to the owners.”

Verduzco said he hadn’t raised his prices because he knows that his clients are also dealing with this economy and higher rates could scare business away.

He said he had seen an increase in out-of-state moves.

“More people are moving out of California than moving in. They say they're leaving because of the high price of living in San Diego. It's not affordable anymore,” he said.

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Tania Thorne
Pictured, a small gas tank used to fill landscape equipment and Leonardo Hernandez, the owner of Los Reyes Landscape and Maintenance, working in the background in Oceanside on June 14, 2022.

Landscape services are also struggling with the higher gas prices. Leonardo Hernandez owns Los Reyes Landscape and Maintenance and told KPBS that the cost of gas is forcing him to raise his prices.

“We want to raise our prices, but the clients think twice about hiring us,” Hernandez said.

Although new clients call him for service, Hernandez said he'd had to turn down jobs if the distance was too far, because there’s no profit after having to fill up his tank. “If we go deeper into the county, we have to charge more," he said.

Aside from his work trucks, his machinery also runs on gas.

“This blower runs on gas, (but) in some cities we can't use them. They want electric," Hernandez said.

He said higher gas prices left him no room to give his workers a raise or upgrade his machinery from gas-powered to electric.

Hernandez said he wanted to know what the governor is doing about lowering gas prices, because the situation isn’t getting any better.

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Tania Thorne
Blanca Perez, a house cleaner, loads a bucket into the trunk of her car in Vista on June 15, 2022.

Blanca Perez also hopes that the governor is working on lowering gas prices and the cost of living because she thinks this is a problem that is hurting the lower and middle classes the most.

Perez is a house cleaner, and told KPBS she feels lucky that she has enough work for the week. But her cost for gas has doubled and her income has stayed the same.

"I used to fill up my little car with $40. Now, I fill it with $80 and my income hasn't changed. It's frustrating," she said.

Perez said some clients had been OK with small rate increases, but others have canceled their cleaning services.

Like Verduzco and Hernandez, she said she’d also lost business to clients moving out of state. "Lots of them are moving out of California, and I've lost clients because they're moving to other states for the same reason ... high prices everywhere," she said.

Perez said she was considering getting a second job in order to keep up with her expenses.