The Gulfport Rebound program – which sent $50 in COVID relief vouchers to city households to spend at locally owned, bricks-and-mortar businesses – yielded $228,150 for hometown businesses and city utility payments.
Of that total, $176,400 went to Gulfport businesses taking part in the city program.
The City of Gulfport funded the program with federal pandemic funds and originally budgeted up to $410,000.
Gulfport Finance Director Cheryl Hannafin briefed the city council on the program at its Feb. 1 meeting.
The Rebound Program sent $50 in vouchers totaling $370,600 to 7,412 Gulfport households, Hannafin said.
The program aimed to boost local businesses with federal COVID funds and ran from Dec. 10 to Jan. 10.
Hannafin said 68 local businesses signed up to participate in the voucher effort after the city contacted 239 establishments.
She said Gulfportians redeemed 61.6% of the distributed vouchers, spending $176,400 at participating Gulfport businesses and $51,750 for city utility payments.
Hannafin said the percentage used at local establishments pleased her.
The unused funds from the program will go back to the city government for other efforts, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
Gulfport received $1.1 million in federal funds from $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021. It used other COVID-19 relief funds for sewer and water upgrades, and to reimburse city workers who worked extra hours without full compensation during the pandemic.
Council members and local business owners at the Feb. 1 meeting applauded the voucher program.
“I’m proud to be a resident and a business owner in this city,” said Barbara Banno, president of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce and owner of Stella’s restaurant.
City officials and businesses also liked the media attention the vouchers brought to Gulfport.
“It’s gone viral throughout the state,” O’Reilly said.
Hannafin said the city did receive notifications from 44 households that they did not receive vouchers. The city is looking at allowing those households to allocate funds toward utility payments or providing gift cards to local shops and businesses.