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CARES money to fund gift certificates

Isle of Wight County and the towns of Smithfield and Windsor will use a portion of their Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocations to fund a 50/50 matching gift certificate program intended to stimulate the local economy.

The program, which the county is promoting using the social media hashtag #IsleShopSmall, is modeled off a similar initiative in Mecklenburg County. Each household in Isle of Wight will be allowed to purchase up to five $40 gift certificates for participating local businesses — with half that cost paid for by the purchaser and the other half with CARES Act funds.

The county and two towns have allocated a combined $105,000 in CARES Act money for the program, which will be administered by the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce. Of this, $23,861 will come out of Smithfield’s CARES Act allotment, $7,762 from Windsor’s, and the remaining $73,377 from the county’s.

Starting next week and continuing through Nov. 9, the county will be soliciting businesses to sign up for the program. On Nov. 10, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Isle of Wight residents can purchase up to five gift certificates per household for use at one or more participating businesses via the Chamber of Commerce’s website or in-person at the Smithfield & Isle of Wight Tourism office at 319 Main St.

“From Mecklenburg’s experience, this will sell out very quickly,” Isle of Wight Economic Development Director Chris Morello said.

When a gift certificate is purchased, the Chamber will immediately send $40 to the participating business regardless of if or when the certificate is used.

County residents can begin using their certificates on Black Friday, Nov. 27, either by printing them or downloading them to their smartphones.