Soldotna City Hall is photographed on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Hall is photographed on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Shopping local is back in Soldotna

The program offers $100 in vouchers to people who spent $200 on discretionary items at participating Soldotna businesses.

Soldotna’s successful “Holding Our Own” shop local program is making a comeback this year thanks to unanimous approval by the Soldotna City Council during their Wednesday night meeting. The city has already set aside $350,000 for the program but gave it the official green light on Wednesday.

The program offered last year ran from November through December and offered $100 in vouchers to people who spent $200 on discretionary items at participating Soldotna businesses. Fifty-eight businesses and more than 2,800 shoppers participated in the 2020 program, generating over $850,000 in spending at Soldotna businesses, according to the legislation.

As with the program offered in 2020, Queen said, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce will administer the program this year.

“[The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce] really knocked it out of the park in terms of the administration of those funds and the strategic way they were put to use in the community,” Queen said. “We’re thankful for that partnership.”

The $350,000 set aside by the city for the 2021 program comes from the federal CARES Act, signed into law last year. Under that legislation the City of Soldotna received about $10 million. Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said Wednesday that the city chose to reserve some of its leftover CARES funds to bring back the shop local program in 2021 after Congress extended the deadline by which those funds had to be spent to the end of 2021.

“This program will provide both economic relief and stimulus for city businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide assistance for residents purchasing goods and services in Soldotna,” the legislation approved Wednesday says.

Soldotna Chamber Executive Director Shanon Davis wrote in an Oct. 20 memo to Queen that this year’s program will run from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, with vouchers required to be spent by the end of the year. Of the $350,000 approved for the program, $310,000 will be used for direct incentives to shoppers and $40,000 will be used to cover administrative costs such as personnel, materials and postage.

Businesses interested in participating in this year’s program must have a brick and mortar business in Soldotna city limits, have a valid State of Alaska business license as of Jan. 1, 2021 and be current in sales tax registration with the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Additionally, businesses cannot be a national chain or C corporation traded on the U.S. stock exchange and must self-certify that they have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discretionary purchases eligible for the program include money spent on things such as meals at Soldotna restaurants, clothing, flowers and jewelry, among others. Non-discretionary purchases ineligible for the program include things like rent payments, gas and groceries, among others.

Davis said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Soldotna City Council that the chamber is ready to offer the shop local program this year.

“We are ready and able to stand up the shop local program immediately if the council decides that they would like to move forward with that,” Davis said. “We are super excited about another great season for Christmas because of your support.”

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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