GULFPORT, Fla. — Gulfport has decided to use some of its federal COVID stimulus money to help both businesses and residents by sending every household in the city a $50 rebound voucher next month.
"We wanted to help people out the most direct way we could," said Mayor Sam Henderson. "It's just such a benefit to businesses and residents in one shot."
Mayor Henderson said about a quarter of the 210 businesses in Gulfport have signed up to accept the vouchers. Henderson said he would like to see the number boosted to 50-percent and extended the application deadline to the end of the business day on Nov. 29.
"There's so many options to use it. So, we want as many businesses as possible to sign up," said Henderson. "They can use this basically if you're at a hair salon or a mechanic or a chiropractor or own a convenience store."
The rebound vouchers can even be used to pay utility bills.
There's $410,000 of funding in the voucher program, which comes from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year. Next month, each of the 7,000 households in Gulfport will be mailed 2 vouchers worth $25 each that can be used at participating local businesses.
"It's a win-win for the residents and it's a win-win for the businesses," said Barbara Banno, owner of Stella's restaurant. "Especially, our businesses who have struggled through covid."
Banno signed up her restaurant and gift shop next door to accept the rebound vouchers. Participating businesses will get a window decal to display.
"We struggled during COVID," said Banno. "This is for the City of Gulfport to say 'hey, we believe in you and we're giving back to you.'"
Henderson said to be eligible both the business and resident will need to certify they experienced a negative impact from COVID.
"They sign it (vouchers) which is their acknowledgement that they've experienced a COVID hardship," he said. "Same processes with the business."
The rebound vouchers are good for one month, from Dec. 10, 2021 to Jan. 10, 2022.