Camas residents get discount on utilities if they shop locally
Here’s an idea for juicing the economy: In Camas, Wash., right across the river from Portland, the city’s finance director has come up with a interesting discount for people who shop at local businesses. Cathy Huber Nickerson joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss the program.
“We kind of borrowed the idea from Newberg, Oregon, to encourage people to shop locally with our small businesses. Here in Camas, we offered to discount people’s utility bills in the city of Camas, so what they would do is they would go shop, and for every $25, we would pay $15 of their utility bill,” she said.
“We’re assuming that as they’re shopping, they’re incurring some sales tax revenues and that would be sales tax that we weren’t anticipating given the pandemic. So we would use that sales tax to offset their utility bills … so far it’s been just really successful. And we’ve been very pleased with what we’re seeing.”
As Dave noted, the city is able to justify this by realizing that they’re in a situation where people are not shopping, and so to create business that wouldn’t otherwise have been there, they plowed that sales tax revenue back into a discount to essentially prime the pump.
“Right. The limit is $75. But we assume that people would be encouraged to do that and then do more, potentially, feel more comfortable shopping locally, and from what we’re hearing from our businesses, they’re really seeing — especially the restaurants — a great deal of business that they didn’t think they would be receiving during this pandemic.”
This could be the kind of thing where local politicians see this as going too far, as bending the rules. Did they get any push back from local politicians on this?
“I have not. … We’ve had attorneys look at it on our end, and we feel comfortable with what we’re doing … and we’re feeling pretty comfortable that we’ve crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s on this one.”
“Everybody’s winning in this situation.”
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