By Richard Dahl on June 25, 2020

Little Tenino, Washington (population 1,884) has come up with a seemingly novel way to ease the economic pain caused by the coronavirus lockdown: Create the town’s own currency.

Mayor Wayne Fournier was looking for a way to help individuals and families who were hurt when businesses were forced to close down when the idea came to him at a town meeting. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Tenino had printed its own wooden dollars to help the local economy — why not do it again?

Fournier and city officials decided to reintroduce the wooden currency, using an old printing press to imprint thin sheets of wood with an image of George Washington and the phrase, “habemus autem sub potestate,” which basically means, “We have it under control.”

Here’s how it works: The town set aside $10,000 to assist residents with incomes that fall under the poverty line. Those people become eligible to apply for money from that fund. Instead of receiving cash, however, they get the wooden currency, which comes in notes worth $25 each. Applicants can receive up to 12 per month, or $300, and their use is limited to Tenino merchants who provide essential goods and services, not including liquor, cigarettes, or marijuana. The merchants may then submit redemption requests to the city for real U.S. cash.

Why not just give residents the cash? Because the local currency means that the money stays in the community and is not sent out to Amazon or other online retailers.

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