Spanish Fork Voucher Program Boosts Small Businesses During Pandemic

Feb 24, 2021, 6:35 PM | Updated: Feb 25, 2021, 12:08 am

SPANISH FORK, Utah – We all know COVID-19 hammered small businesses and many cities tried different ways to keep their local shops afloat. But Spanish Fork came up with one of the successful plans, and owners were very thankful.

You don’t see many stores anymore like Victor Cope’s shop. He’s repaired and sold shoes for close to 40 years in Spanish Fork.

“Not many around,” Cope said. “I like working with my hands.”

What he does not like is something he hopes to never see again.

“I was probably down about 10%,” he said.

Like many small business owners, Cope saw sales drop because of the coronavirus pandemic. It hit a lot of businesses hard.

“Well, at the beginning, we decided to close for a week to decide what to do,” said Kara Morris, another Spanish Fork small business owner. “We closed for a week in March.”

She wasn’t alone. Many stores like Morris’ Confetti Antiques and Books closed temporarily because people just weren’t going out like they used to.

“April was very slow when they told everyone to stay home,” she said.

Business eventually started to pick up for some stores, but others still struggled. Then the city decided to help.

“We’ve really worked hard with our small business owners in town to do whatever we can to help them,” said Spanish Fork Mayor Steve Leifson.

City leaders created a voucher program that used federal CARES Act money. Residents received three vouchers worth $25 each to spend at local businesses that were part of the program.

“You can’t believe how many people I’ve had, citizens, email me and call me and say, ‘What a great program. Thank you, thank you.’ And the businesses loved it,” Leifson said.

Those businesses returned the vouchers to the city for payment.

In all, the program helped 190 businesses and put more than $650,000 into the local economy.

“That was awesome,” said Morris. “We had a huge turnout of people who helped our business. A lot of people came and spent all three of their vouchers here.”

City leaders also reached out to some of the big box stores in town like Walmart, Costco and Lowe’s and asked them not to participate in the voucher program so the money could be spent at small businesses that needed the money more. Those big stores agreed.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen any kind of promotion or anything done by the city that’s really made a difference,” Cope said, adding the vouchers boosted his sales by almost 20%.

Just enough to make a tough year not so tough after all.

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Spanish Fork Voucher Program Boosts Small Businesses During Pandemic