Aspen to dole out $25 gift cards to spur local retail, restaurant business
Aspen residents who received a food tax refund this year are eligible for a $25 gift card to be used at a retail store or a restaurant as a way to quickly inject money into the local economy.
Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved the gift card program, which is expected to cost $50,000 and is part of the city’s $6 million COVID-19 relief and recovery fund.
City officials recognize that public health orders, which closed non-essential businesses in March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Aspen, are having devastating economic impacts to local retail and restaurants.
The gift card program is designed to lift up businesses and people’s spirits.
“You’re getting people energized to go out, to have meals … for not a lot of money for a coupon you are activating a lot of different people,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said.
People who are eligible can pick up the cards at a window in City Hall that faces the sidewalk on Galena Street possibly as early as next week.
The cards, which can be used one time at one location, must be used by July 6.
All restaurants and retail businesses within the city are eligible to participate, but are not required to.
The cards cannot be used for alcohol or marijuana.
“This is a way for the citizens of Aspen to go out and exercise that support for local business, which in turn gives that business some confidence to rehire some people and resupply,” said Ron LeBlanc, special projects manager for the city.
LeBlanc said using the list of residents who received the food sales tax refund is the most expedient method to identify residents who are eligible.
At $25 per individual, using the food tax rebate criteria, 461 seniors will be eligible to receive a card, equaling $11,525 and 1,082 for non-seniors, totaling $27,050.
An additional 450 cards will be distributed to local nonprofit entities and the Aspen Police Department to give to individuals encountered by police officers who need assistance. This portion of the program equals $11,425,
Residents should bring a proper ID to City Hall to pick up their card. Window hours will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
LeBlanc said with council’s blessing, the program could roll out as early as next week.
The last day for gift card distribution to participants is June 12.
Businesses will need to sign up to acknowledge their willingness to accept the gift cards through the city’s website. Businesses will be asked to keep a file to substantiate the card application on the bill by keeping receipts and cards for proof of use.
City staff will routinely come to the businesses to pick up documentation and to remit payment for the aggregate value of the cards.
If immediate payment is desired, it will occur via a credit card transaction. If a credit card transaction is not possible, a paper check will be issued and mailed.
City staff will be designing the program and the cards so that fraud and counterfeiting are not achievable.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said the value of the gift card is greater than the dollar amount.
“I think a lot of people go out with $25 and spend $100,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh boy I can really get this thing I’ve always wanted to try that was too expensive but maybe with the $25 certificate I will go for it.’
“I do think it will help people feel like, ‘Yeah I went out and it was safe and it was OK,’” she continued. “So reintroducing the public, it’s a little bit of an incentive.”