Here's an excerpt from another article on Tenino's wooden COVID-19 relief scrip from the Thompson Reuters Foundation, published July 18, 2020 by The Dispatch.
Tucked away under lock and key in a former railroad depot turned small-town museum in the U.S. state of Washington, a wooden printing press cranked back to life to mint currency after nearly 90 dormant years.
The end product: $25 wooden bills bearing the town's name – Tenino – with the words "COVID Relief" superimposed on the image of a bat and the Latin phrase "Habemus autem sub potestate" (We have it under control) printed in cursive.
With the coronavirus pandemic plunging the United States into a recession, decimating small businesses and causing job losses across the country, some local governments are looking for innovative ways to help residents weather the storm.
Businesses up and down the town's quaint Main Street accept the wooden note for everything except alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and lottery tickets.
Tenino's city government backs the local currency, which merchants can exchange for U.S. dollars at city hall at a 1:1 rate.
Susan Witt, executive director of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, a Massachusetts-based think tank, said alternative currencies like Tenino's banknote are better than direct cash payments at boosting local economies.
"The City of Barcelona gave donations (in 2017/18) to sports teams and cultural groups as well as social programs (then) watched these donations go to big box stores," she said in emailed comments.
"So, it created a local currency so that these 'discretionary' funds in its budget would circle back to support locally-owned businesses."
Mayor Fournier noted that, for long-time Tenino residents, the wooden notes are nothing new.
Fournier views the project as the kind of initiative towns and small cities must take upon themselves to survive the coronavirus outbreak amid what he views as an inadequate federal response.
He pointed out that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a fund of forgivable loans designed to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, is not scaled for the businesses in Tenino that have just a handful of employees.
"A federal program dumps money from the top and these blue-chip companies steal it all," Fournier said. "If we do it from the ground up, there's no stealing. It's a direct ballast to Main Street."
Fournier said he has already fielded queries from towns across the country looking to emulate Tenino's effort.
"What if 5,000 other small cities did that same thing and took it upon themselves to put $10,000 into Main Street?" he asked.
"That's $50 million directly into small businesses. It totally hacks the system."
So far, however, Tenino's currency does not appear to be circulating much among local businesses.
At the grocery and hardware store that anchors Main Street, manager Chris Hamilton said that by mid-June customers had spent $150 in the local bills to buy necessities like groceries and a new faucet to replace a broken tap.
"I'll redeem it for cash at city hall," he said. "I hadn't thought about recirculating it."
Next door at Don Juan's Mexican Kitchen, owner Juan Martinez Jr. has four of the wooden $25 notes sitting in his cash register.
In a case of history repeating, he said coin collectors have offered to buy the bills from him for double their value in U.S. dollars.
Back in the 1930s, coin collectors fueled a speculative rise in the value of the town's wooden scrip, according to Washington state online encyclopedia HistoryLink.
To read the complete article, see:
Money talks: U.S. town prints own currency to boost coronavirus relief
Wayne Homren, Editor
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