Los Alamitos puts some of its American Rescue Plan Act share back into the pockets of residents, encouraging people to shop small during the upcoming holiday season.
At a special meeting Oct. 11, City Council unanimously approved the launch of “Los Al Bucks,” vouchers for residents to redeem at participating Los Alamitos establishments. The program aims to help businesses in Los Alamitos recover from financial devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the staff report.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at email@example.com.
Ron Noda, developmental services manager, estimates there are 1,100 businesses in Los Alamitos, with many being small, local or family-owned.
Around 4,400 households will receive $50 worth of Los Al Bucks for the promotion, scheduled for Nov. 10 through Dec. 19.
According to Noda, city staff intended the timing of the program to align with the holiday shopping season and Small Business Saturday, which falls on Nov. 27 this year.
“It’s a benefit for both the residents and the business community,” Noda said at the meeting.
Los Alamitos estimates the total project cost is $227,425: the monetary value of the vouchers being $221,050, with another $6,375 allocated for community outreach and printing and mailing fees.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief effort signed in by the Biden administration earlier this year. Over $1.3 billion of that bailout money will go to Orange County over the next two years.
Los Alamitos’ share is an estimated $2.7 million.
Other cities in Orange County have already begun planning where they will spend their funds.
Santa Ana looks towards building new parks and improving their library system. Lake Forest is investing in support for local small businesses and San Clemente is focused on infrastructure-related projects, including new city council chambers.
Los Alamitos has already received half of the money, but has not yet released an official spending plan. While $227,425 has been allocated towards the Los Al Bucks program, Finance Director Craig Koehler estimates a majority of the remaining funds will cover “revenue loss.”
Michelle Muller, management analyst for Los Alamitos’ Developmental Services Department, said around 30 businesses have already signed up to participate in the Los Al Bucks program as of Nov. 2. These include retail businesses, restaurants, gyms, and a nonprofit thrift store.
“A lot of them are small mom and pop shops, which is exciting,” Muller told Voice of OC.
According to Muller, a list of all participating businesses will be available on the city website no later than Monday Nov. 8.
To explain program specifics further, the Los Alamitos City Council held an online Zoom session on Oct. 27 for all residents and participating businesses. The informational webinar can be found and viewed on the city’s Youtube page.
Los Al Bucks will not be valid for use at cannabis-related establishments, gas stations or online food delivery services. The vouchers are not redeemable for cash and must be used within the promotion period.
The $50 value of the vouchers will be divided among five Los Al Bucks, worth $10 each. A purchase of at least $15 is required in order to redeem each $10 coupon, according to Noda.
Eligible businesses may fill out a participation form. Participating businesses will have 45 days after the promotion concludes to submit all required documentation to the city in order to receive reimbursement.
Mayor Mark Chirco commended city staff for the amount of work that went into launching the program in time for the holiday season.
“This is something that I was skeptical we’d be able to get done in time for small business week and the end of the year because of the volume of work,” Chirco said at the Oct. 11 meeting. “I think this is great… it’s a phenomenal program.”
Residents will have through Dec. 19 to spend their Los Al Bucks at participating businesses.