Plan to hand out restaurant gift cards part of Rolling Meadows relief efforts
In response to the economic effects of the pandemic, Rolling Meadows officials have proposed the purchase and handout of restaurant gift cards to help businesses, and allocating more money to an emergency assistance program to assist residents.
The local dining incentive, proposed by City Manager Barry Krumstok, is seen as one strategy to get people to return to restaurants as the economy slowly begins to reopen. And by committing some seed money, it could help build back up diminished city food and beverage tax revenues, officials said.
Still, some aldermen were initially skeptical of Krumstok's preliminary plan unveiled this week. Further discussion is expected next month before a final decision by the city's elected officials.
The plan calls for the city to allocate funds to purchase gift cards or gift certificates at as many as 63 eateries within the city limits. At least $1,000 would be spent at each business on gift cards of varying amounts, such as $10 or $25.
Under Krumstok's plan, the city council and members of the Rolling Meadows Community Events Foundation would distribute the gift cards to residents.
"It's trying to get people back into the restaurants," Krumstok told aldermen during a committee meeting this week. "We feel it's beneficial."
Mayor Joe Gallo and Alderman Jenifer Vinezeano said they didn't want corporate-owned eateries to get the incentive, while Alderman Nick Budmats sought to exclude gambling cafes.
Gallo also suggested there's other small businesses that could benefit from the city's help.
Earlier in a narrow 4-3 vote, aldermen directed city staff to increase the funds in the city's temporary emergency family assistance program from $5,000 to $20,000, using reserves. They also increased the maximum limit an individual or household can receive from $500 to $1,500. The measure was proposed by Alderman Lara Sanoica, who anticipates more residents may be requesting help for rent and utility bills.
Generally only one or two families have applied for the city funds every quarter, and there hasn't been any uptick in the last two months, city officials said,
But Sanoica said things could change once evictions are enforced again and other organizations like townships and nonprofits become tapped out.
"It makes sense to put in some money and increase the caps, so it actually means something," Sanoica said.