Merced considers options to boost economy, including vouchers for local shopping

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Like cities across California, Merced is filled with businesses that are suffering more each day. That includes The Chocolate Dipper candy shop on Main Street, which usually relies on foot traffic and filling large orders for fundraisers.

Co-owner Brittney Lowe says, "I had four fundraisers for the month of April, and they all had to cancel so we took a huge impact on that."

But Mayor Mike Murphy says the city is in a much better position to begin re-opening businesses than many urban communities due to its smaller size and because the hospital system has not been overrun by COVID-19 cases.

He wrote a letter to Governor Newsom on April 30 saying the state is too big for a one size fits all approach.

Murphy explains, "There are a lot of businesses in Merced that could be open and still operate safely. These are not mutually exclusive."

Shortly after our interview with the mayor, Governor Newsom announced that many stage two businesses can begin to re-open on Friday, including bookstores, florists, and clothing shops.

He also signed an executive order that will allow local health officers to implement less restrictive measures than the state if they meet certain criteria that will be outlined in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Mayor Murphy says the city is looking for other ways to boost the economy, including a voucher program funded through a private public partnership.

He says, "Essentially it is a proposal to provide a voucher or gift card that is mailed to each of our households in the City of Merced that any Merced business owner could decide to accept and redeem at City Hall for the face value of it, a check payment."

That voucher proposal is among the options the Merced City Council was set to discuss during its meeting on Monday, May 4, along with rental assistance, business loans, and continuing the local emergency declaration.
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