'We hope you shop Elk Grove with it': Officials mailing $200 prepaid gift cards to every household

Elk Grove Village officials Tuesday mailed $200 prepaid gift cards to all 14,000 households in town, in what is the third economic relief package distributed by the municipality since the onset of the pandemic.

Mayor Craig Johnson said the village is doing very well financially, with its coffers having reaped increased sales and electric tax revenues, and building permit fees for data centers coming on line.

"We know inflation is high. Some say we're in a recession now," Johnson said at a village board meeting Tuesday night. "Times are tough. Gas is expensive. It's come down some, but it's still a lot of expense. Food's not come down at all. That's up there. And kids are back in school. Some people are still buying school supplies for kids. We hope you use it for that. And we hope you shop Elk Grove with it."

In total, the village has provided more than $8.9 million to residents and businesses, after two rounds of $200 water bill credits and the waiving of various business licensing fees in 2020. It's come out to about a $3 million giveaway each time.

For his announcement at the board meeting, Johnson had a sign with that exact total dollar figure - $8,904,713.88 - hung and hidden below the dais before he and the six trustees took off its covering. The mayor plans to install the sign at the entrance to village hall, just as the gift cards will be hitting mailboxes.

The gift cards are being distributed to every residential address in town - apartments, condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes. The green Visa cards, labeled "Shop Elk Grove," will be preceded by a letter from the mayor and village board explaining the relief initiative. They can be activated on the third-party vendor's website,, or by phone.

Johnson said the village is giving out gift cards instead of water bill credits this time to give people more flexibility to buy food, gas and other essentials.

The latest relief program comes after a series of tax and fee hikes in 2021, including a 10% property tax hike last November that was the first increase in the town's general property tax levy in 14 years. The tax increase, a larger natural-gas use tax and a new stormwater management fee make up a $4.75 million annual revenue plan to ramp up street, sidewalk and rear-yard drainage upgrades.

"We don't do anything unless we have a source of money to pay for it on an ongoing basis, because you can have good years, you can have bad years," Johnson said. "I don't want to start doing roads (and) we have a bad year and say, 'Oh, no roads done this year, sorry folks.' No, no, no."

"We want to make sure we have that source of funding to keep it going. We could have a bad year in the future. So if we did that, we'd be raising taxes. We don't want to raise them if we don't have to. So when we have excess money like now, that's the time to give it back."

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