A new sign welcoming people to the City of Soldotna is photographed on May 1, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A new sign welcoming people to the City of Soldotna is photographed on May 1, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council approves vouchers for shopping local

Shoppers who spend $200 at certain Soldotna businesses may be eligible to receive two $50 vouchers.

Shoppers who spend $200 at certain businesses within Soldotna city limits may be eligible to receive two $50 vouchers to be spent at those same businesses following a city council vote in support of the program on Wednesday.

The Soldotna City Council approved the use of $115,000 in CARES Act money to award a grant for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce to launch a “2020 Shop Local” campaign aimed at providing economic relief to Soldotna businesses suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Anyone can participate in the program, regardless of where they live, however, participating businesses must be located in Soldotna city limits. With the approved funding level, 1,000 people can participate in the program. In order to receive the two $50 vouchers, program participants must submit receipts showing their discretionary spending at places like hotels, restaurants and spas, among others. Money spent on things like rent, fuel, utilities and groceries is considered non-discretionary.

Participating businesses will be asked to self-certify that they have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19. The same criteria used to determine whether or not businesses were eligible to receive CARES Act money from the city will be used to determine whether or not businesses are eligible to participate in the program.

Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki said that the program is modeled after a similar program in Haines, Alaska. In Haines, people who spend $300 are eligible to receive $100 in vouchers.

Lowering the dollar amount to $200 for the Soldotna program would allow for greater participation by patrons and would discourage the purchase of “big ticket” items, Czarnezki said.

“We don’t have all the details worked out at this point, but through our initial discussions our focus is on benefitting our local small business that have been hurt by COVID-19,” Czarnezki said.

Offering two $50 vouchers instead of one $100 voucher helps “share the love” between businesses because the vouchers can be spent at two different places, said Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shanon Davis.

Vouchers would need to be spent before the CARES Act spending deadline at the end of the year.

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

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