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Reedsburg Utility discounts $30,000 in chamber checks to rejuvenate local economy
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Reedsburg Utility discounts $30,000 in chamber checks to rejuvenate local economy

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Reedsburg Utility is giving back to help Reedsburg’s economy get back on its feet and assist small businesses recover from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the utility receiving $19,500 in funds provided by Wisconsin Public Power Inc. for coronavirus relief, Reedsburg Utility General Manager Brett Schuppner said it decided to use some of the money to purchase $30,000 worth of chamber checks from the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce at full price.

The utility sold those checks at a discounted rate in increments June 30 to encourage people to shop local as businesses begin to reopen and are recovering from the financial impact of being shut down for almost two months to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Schuppner said about 50 envelopes of chamber checks were left over from the event. The utility will sell the remaining envelopes through its drive-up window until they are gone, he said.

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Originally, the utility purchased $20,000 worth of chamber checks to sell, but decided to kick in an extra $10,000 based on interest in the event, Schuppner said. The utility also used funds from WPPI to purchase no-touch thermometers for schools and daycare centers and provide grants for small businesses, nursing homes and assisted living facilities affected by financial impact of the virus, Schuppner said.

The utility hosted the drive up event, dubbed Recharge Reedsburg, June 30 for people to purchase envelopes of chamber checks from the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce in $100 increments at a discounted rate. Each individual purchasing a $75 worth of chamber checks received a $25 check free from the utility. The event only took place for one day for people to drive up into the Reedsburg Utility parking lot and purchase checks in no more than $300 increments per family.

Schuppner said the idea is to encourage people to spend money in the local community, like restaurants and businesses, to help the local economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristine Koenecke said about 100 to 150 businesses are members of the chamber.

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Shuppner said the checks can be used to spend anywhere that is a member of the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, from grocery stores to restaurants and even their utility bill because the utility is a chamber member.

Koenecke said the chamber checks work just like a regular personal check. She said the additional money will be a huge contribution to the Reedsburg economy to help the businesses as they begin to recover from the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“$30,000 is not a small amount,” she said. “That’s a huge amount that in one day hopefully will just be pushed back into the community over the next several months.”

Koenecke said the chamber hasn’t conducted a survey on the exact financial impact of the virus on Reedsburg’s business community but knows every business in the area, from regular to seasonal, has suffered greatly after being required to shut down for almost two months.

“We know that everyone has lost a lot of money proportionate to the size of their business,” she said. “Because especially if it’s been completely closed for potentially three months, that is three months out of your 12-month year, so you know that is an enormous amount of money.”

Koenecke said Reedsburg Utility’s action is another byproduct to show the community needs to come together to get through the pandemic. Another way the chamber has seen individuals and businesses come together is purchasing lunch for essential workers as an expression of gratitude.

“We’ve seen big things and little things,” she said. “I’m sure as we move forward through this year and I’m guessing all of next year, we are going to see just a lot of continued community support for many different kind of things to kind of get us back on track and get us back on our feet.”

Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.

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