The Federal Government is now releasing the second tranche of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, $33 billion in direct aid to every county, city, town and borough in America. Agencies have until year-end 2024 to allocate the funds and year-end 2026 to spend it. In this webinar, HdL and Yiftee discuss how communities are using ARPA funding and eGift Card programs to boost their local economies and strengthen small businesses for the future.
- Get access to ROI case studies of simple, free community gift card programs.
- Learn how to run a 'shop local' campaign in your community in time for the holiday season, benefitting residents and merchants alike.
Q: Did the participants you referenced in this webinar use ARPA funds?
A. All the cities we discussed in this webinar did use ARPA funds. Oakley, for instance, is in a couple of rounds of this. Oakley is a small city, so when the Feds changed the ARPA rules, the City didn't have to show all that revenue loss. They didn't have any revenue loss originally, so they were able to move that to their general funds and that will fund future rounds of their Yiftee program. And again, there's no rush to allocate or even spend all of your money in the first couple of years. You can allocate it until the end of 2024 and spend it through 2026. We are able to stretch this out and do more with it and doing digital gift cards is something that you can continue to do beyond this year and in the future.
Q. Can nonprofit organizations apply for ARPA funds?
A. They don't get a direct allocation for it, but they can apply to the city that they're in.
Q. Aside from covering the promotional money for a Buy One, Get One program, can ARPA funds cover administrative cost for a gift card program, for example hdl’s cost for assistance and administering the gift card?
A. Absolutely. That’s certainly an eligible expense. Within the 20 communities that we're assisting, any cost for HdL is able to be covered out of your ARPA funds.
Q. Can you start at one level and then scale up?
A. Absolutely. We recommend a modest start. Once you see how successful the program is, you can go back and add more or tweak the program in whatever way needed. Building enthusiasm, especially for council members, that you've had some initial success, like in Oakley and Murietta, is really important.
Q. If we are paying for the gift card balance, what does ARPA cover?
A. ARPA can pay for the cost of the program, the Buy One, Get One free option, etc. They are all eligible expenses that can be structured however you feel is appropriate. Typically, we'll also help with determining who you want to target in terms of businesses. Restaurants, boutique retailers and service providers like nail salons, barbershops, etc. are common audiences. It’s helpful to look at what businesses were negatively impacted the most.
Typically the ARPA funds pay for the bonus cards. So, if a consumer pays their own money to buy a $100 gift card and there's a $100 match, that match/bonus card is paid for out of ARPA funds. So that's what makes this program pretty unique. We do have other sponsors for programs like this. We've seen banks and some corporations sponsor the bonus cards, but right now the big opportunity is the availability of these ARPA funds.
Q. Is there a digital connection with Apple or Google Pay platforms?
A. It's not available yet. We expect to be able to do so sometime next year.
Q. How do you determine what businesses can participate?
A. You can structure that to really fit the needs of your community. Typically the participants for businesses are going to be your small independent owned businesses, not the giant corporate companies like Walmart and McDonald's. A lot of communities have allowed franchisees, but they need to be local franchisees. Really focusing on the small, independently owned businesses can help provide direction.
Also, any merchant that can process a manual entry MasterCard can participate. Bowling alleys and car washes for example. The card does work online, so if your merchants have ecommerce sites, the card can be used online as long as the value of the shopping cart is less than or equal to the amount of money on the card. (It's a prepaid card, so there's only so many dollars on it.)
Q. What are the fees for HdL and Yiftee?
A. HdL charges a modest fee with a not-to-exceed on an hourly basis to set up and structure your program. It will really depend on your community. As for Yiftee's fees, when someone buys a card, there's an e-delivery fee that's applied, just like a convenience fee if you bought a Fandango movie ticket. That fee is $1.00 and 5% of the face value of the card. Out of that fee, we're paying the credit card processing costs on that transaction. So about half of that margin goes to us to keep the lights on here at Yiftee. Also, when the bonus cards expire, there's a restocking fee of 10% of the initial card value. Whatever's left on the card after that is returned to you, to your ARPA pool, so that of helps fund the company long-term. The third component of the revenue model is that purchased cards do not expire as long as it is used once every 12 months. And Yiftee sends reminders every month to use the card. If it goes untouched for twelve consecutive months, then we can take an inactivity fee of up to $3.00 a month off the card balance, and that funds the company long-term going forward so that we don't have to charge you or the merchants anything for the program.
Q. Can ARPA dollars be used in the marketing for the program?
A. Absolutely. Marketing, design, structure, any administrative cost… all of that is eligible to be funded out of ARPA funds.
Q. Can the page that a person goes to purchase the card be in a second language?
A. Absolutely. HdL has the capability to provide translation for all your flyers, surveys, etc. - whatever your program requires, and all of that is eligible to be compensated with ARPA funds.