Tuolumne County residents will be able to have their money doubled when they shop at local businesses through a program funded by federal COVID-19 relief money.
The county released a request for proposals this week seeking a contractor to help establish an electronic gift card program that will equally match the amount people spend at participating local businesses up to $100.
“It will not only help businesses, but also residents,” said Simi Kaur, purchasing and contract management analyst for the county.
Sometimes referred to as a “Relief Across Downtown” gift card, or RAD card, the program has become popular in other places that have implemented it, including Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
In September, the county Board of Supervisors approved funding the program to the tune of $500,000 from $5.3 million the county received this year through the federal American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in March.
The way the program would work is people would buy gift cards for eligible local businesses that sign up to participate. For example, someone who bought a $50 card for a participating restaurant would receive an additional $50 to spend there. The maximum match will be $100.
“That just helps our consumers spend more and bolster small businesses and therefore the economy,” Kaur said.
Proposals from prospective contractors to help the county set up the program are due by next Friday, Oct. 22, with the goal of it being up and running in time for the holiday season. Kaur said a consultant is necessary because the county has never done anything like it in the past.
Everyone will be eligible to purchase the cards and receive the matching funds regardless of their income level, though they could only be spent at the businesses within the county that participate in the program.
Kaur said the cards will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until the $500,000 runs out, after which the board could consider adding more money if the program is well used and successful.
County supervisors still have nearly $2.5 million left from the initial $5.3 million received this year from the American Rescue Plan and will get an additional $5.3 million to spend in May next year.
In addition to the gift card program, the board voted in September to spend $800,000 of the federal relief funding on a new fire engine, water tender and other needed firefighting equipment; $500,000 to launch a program that will provide grants for community projects; $350,000 on cyber security and disaster recovery; $283,290 on an expanded space needs study for county departments; $250,000 for code enforcement abatement; $60,000 on GIS and surveyor equipment and software; $60,000 for animal control equipment; and $10,000 on a mailer about the county’s innovation and business assistance program.
The county must decide what to spend all of the $10.6 million it will receive from the American Rescue Plan by the end of 2024 and have it all spent by the end 2026, or give back whatever’s left to the federal government.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 768-5175.