Newberg is among several Oregon and Southwest Washington cities giving locals a break on utility bills in exchange for patronizing local businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Newberg plan is simple: a credit of $15 on city water, sewer and stormwater bills is available to residents producing a receipt from a Newberg business of at least $25. The receipt must be dated no earlier than April 7, when Newberg put the program into place.
Newberg residents can get up to five $15 utility credits for April and May — as much as $150 total — for supporting local businesses. Locals have cashed in, too, as Newberg has provided $104,000 in credits as of Tuesday. The program runs through the end of May.
Any business with a Newberg address is eligible for the receipt/credit exchange. Newberg is accepting receipts at a city dropbox, or scanned into the body of an email to the city.
“We know the businesses are struggling,” said Matt Zook, city of Newberg finance director. “Most people would have continued to buy local anyway, but this encourages people to stay local rather than buy from something like Amazon.”
The program isn’t restricted to Newberg residents. Those who do not have a Newberg utility can forward receipts from city businesses and donate the credit to someone they know who lives in Newberg. There is also a growing pot, currently $8,000 of the $104,000, from people asking to donate their credit. Zook says the city will allocate the donated credits to veterans, low-income and people hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak later this summer.
Zook said the utility credits were coming out of the city’s operations and reserves budget.
Newberg began its program after hearing of similar utility credit offerings by small neighboring towns in Dayton, Lafayette and Carlton.
Camas, Washington, learned about Newberg’s success and immediately implemented a similar program, though it restricts receipts to locally-owned small businesses and restaurants. Purchases from Camas businesses that are owned elsewhere, such as Safeway and McDonald’s, are not eligible.
Camas has processed about $35,000 in credits to water, sewer and garbage bills, according to city Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson. Camas’ program runs through the end of May, though Huber Nickerson said the City Council may discuss extending the offer into June.