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Longmont will buy and distribute $25 gift cards that low-income residents can use to pay for meals in locally owned restaurants, under a COVID-19 response program City Council authorized Tuesday night.

Joan Peck

The gift card program, suggested by Councilwoman Joan Peck, would benefit both needy residents and restaurants that have been financially strapped during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

“We do need to help our businesses,” Peck told her council colleagues Tuesday night, adding that the council should also let the public know that it supports residents going to those businesses, “that we all support each other.”

Council members voted unanimously to approve taking $10,000 from the council contingency fund in Longmont’s 2020 budget to cover the program’s expenses. That would still leave more than $20,000 in the contingency fund to respond to other special budget needs or emergencies by year’s end, council and staff said.

That would pay for city purchases of 400 $25 gift cards, which Peck also called “vouchers.”

Those cards would be distributed to residents whose low incomes have qualified them for various tax and utility fee rebates under the City Assistance and Rebate System, better known as Longmont CAReS, as well as to other needy residents who haven’t until now been CAReS beneficiaries but whose incomes have dropped or expenses increased extensively to the point they could benefit from the gift-card program.

Councilwoman Marcia Martin suggested the gift card distributions be limited to needy residents and not handed out to “wealthy people,” a recommendation Peck agreed with.

City staff is expected to work with the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Boulder County, the Longmont Community Foundation and other organizations to compile a list of locally owned restaurants that would be willing to sell the city the $25 gift cards for the program.