Emporia Community and Economic Development Manager Beverly Hawthorne successfully proposes a second round of the Shop Local Gift Card Match Program during Tuesday’s Emporia City Council meeting.

Emporia Community and Economic Development Manager Beverly Hawthorne is pleased with the impact of the Shop Local Gift Card Match Program. Her plea to the City Council to approve a second round of the program passed 5-1 Tuesday.

“I’ve received lots and lots and lots of wonderful comments from both citizens and businesses,” Hawthorne said. “They’ve been very appreciative — bring a tear to your eye on some of them. I think it was a really good program. It was not quite as difficult to implement as I thought it would be.”

The creation of the Gift Card Match Program is an effort to assist local businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. The City used $25,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to boost small businesses in the City of Emporia. Citizens purchased up to five $10 cards for a total of $50. Participating firms matched the purchase price doubling the value of the gift cards.

The City sold 1,414 gift cards during the first round, leaving 1,086 available for the second round. Hawthorne originally asked for a stipulation that only original participating businesses be eligible for the second round. Councilmember Yolanda Hines wondered whether the City could open the program to all qualified businesses. Her fellow City Council members, approved her proposed change.

The second round of gift card sales to businesses begins on Jan. 17. The sales continue until Jan. 28, or the cards are sold out. The gift cards are valid through March 7.

Councilman Jim Saunders stipulated that all unused funds be returned to the economic development budget. The $25,000 was pulled from the $100,000 American Rescue Plan funding awarded to the City.

Councilman Woody Harris said people had asked him if the City would deliver the same program next year. The federal aid is targeted toward businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 and is not an annual funding source. The specialized nature of how the money is spent is limited.

“One day the money is all going to run out,” Harris said. “We will keep building sides to that pen where we’re putting the free feed, and the hogs are going to want that to continue. So, just be prepared for that.”

The rules for the first round of gift cards haven’t changed. Participants must use them by Jan. 31. The second round of the Shop Local Gift Card Match Program - is similar to the first round with a March 7 deadline.