Gulfport gives $50 vouchers to all residents to help COVID battered businesses

Pinellas County

GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s been difficult for businesses in the small community of Gufport to survive during COVID-19.

Those that survived, could certainly use a boost. The city recognized that and city leaders came up with a plan calling it Gulfport Rebound and are mailing out $50 vouchers to every household in the city to use at businesses in the city.

Business owners had to fill out an application to be a part of the program and had to have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

O’Maddy’s manager Joe Guenther says the hospitality industry was dealt a near fatal blow.

“Covid really had a lot of different struggles for us,” said Guenther. “First we had, we were shut down. We were shut down on St. Paddy’s day which is our biggest day of the year.”

Retailers didn’t have it much better. Gini Fagan and her husband own the Gulfport Bazaar, an eclectic gift shop that also sells antiques, and local crafts.

“It affected everything. Because March is our big month and we usually buy a lot of merchandise to gear up for Spring Break so we had all of this stuff, and had to pay for it,” said Fagan. “And nobody to buy it.”

Justin Shea with the City of Gulfport says city leaders are hoping that residents may try establishments they haven’t tried before.

“It’s not just $50 in the community,” said Shea. “The resident can get to meet the business owner. There was a business owner that is also a resident who says I’m going to frequent a business, I’m going to go to a business I don’t normally frequent to spend my voucher. “

Shea says business owners are already thinking of creative ways to lure in the most customers.

“O’Maddy’s was talking about was there going to be a competition on who collects the most vouchers,” said Shea. “Gulfport Nutrition on Gulfport Boulevard was talking about selling that resident a gift card if you bring a voucher into their business.”

Residents like Jamie Bradshaw who just bought a home in the city believes the vouchers will help.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Bradshaw. “Gulfport is such a great area. It’s so cute. I see it as under revitalized because there are some places that are closed up and blocked up.”

Guenther is hopeful locals will stop by his establishment.

“Just bringing people in,” said Guenther. “And that is the name of the game is putting people in the restaurant. Putting them in seats and having that extra money to spend.”

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