Tenino, a small town in Washington, is printing its currencies to assist local enterprises amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tenino, Washington, like many other small towns around the country, was especially hard hit by the economic effects of COVID-19. Many families were laid off, and small businesses struggled to pay their bills and hold their doors open. Tenino’s mayor, Wayne Fournier, agreed to establish a relief scheme that allocates $10,000 to low-income residents impacted by the pandemic in response to the economic difficulties. The method is unusual because Fournier proposes issuing the money in the form of a local currency written on sheets of wood and crafted exceptionally for Tenino.
The locals here who live below the poverty line who can show that they have been economically affected by the pandemic can qualify for up to $300 a month from the government’s $10,000 fund. The grant is sent out in the form of “Tenino dollars,” which are wooden notes worth $25 each. The money should only be used on necessities like food and petrol. It cannot be used to buy alcohol or cigarettes. Businesses who participate in the scheme must then make redemption requests to the government twice a month to redeem the wooden notes for cash. The method excludes large corporate companies such as Walmart and Amazon, ensuring that as much of the budget as possible remains in the city to benefit small entrepreneurs.
Tenino has not printed its currency for the first time. In reality, Fournier’s concept was inspired by the downtown’s roots, when city officials distributed wooden bills after the town’s only bank closed during the Great Depression in 1931. Still, as Tenino struggles with the effects of COVID-19, the city is reviving the local economy by using the same printer from a century ago. Councilors accepted the measure to issue up to $10,000 in municipal script in April.
So far, 13 people have successfully applied for the grants, and $2,500 in wooden bills have been released, according to Fournier, with contributions bringing the total amount available to $16,000.
Fournier foresees the project as the kind of effort that towns and small cities would take to survive the coronavirus epidemic in the face of what he sees as an insufficient federal response.
He noted that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a fund with forgivable loans intended to hold companies alive through the pandemic, is not scaled toward Tenino businesses with just a few workers.
“A government scheme spills funds from the center, and these big corporations take it all,” Fournier said. “There will be no cheating if we do it from the ground up.” It’s a straight shot to Main Street.”
The unprecedented first-come, the first-served scheme failed from the start with infrastructure and paperwork issues, causing some companies to lose out while some wealthy corporations received funds they did not have a neighborhood” From Main Street mom-and-pop stores to neighbourhood anchors, we have seen the PPP save millions of jobs and keep small businesses going forward,” said Jeremy Field, regional administrator for the Small Business Administration, which manages the initiative.
In emailed remarks, he stated that 86.5 percent of loans issued nationwide were for less than $150,000. The initiative covered almost three-quarters of Washington state’s small business payroll.
Tenino is not alone in its efforts; in the aftermath of the pandemic, several cities have developed their currencies to assist people in need. Although local currencies do not have long-term macroeconomic implications, they serve as a buffer for small businesses and low-income residents disproportionately impacted by economic shocks throughout the short run. Finally, through forging one-of-a-kind connections among locals, community currencies foster a sense of local identity and belonging.
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