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From Washington D.C. to Sacramento, governments at all levels are searching for new and innovative ways to boost the federal, state and local economies.

One program that just may help accomplish this difficult task is being tested right here in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood.

It’s called “Bernal Bucks” and – as its slogan of “the buck shops here” suggests – it’s designed to keep Bernal Heights’ dollars within the Bernal Heights neighborhood. The “Bucks” themselves are loaded onto a Visa debit card that is issued through the Mission SF Federal Credit Union. The card can be used at participating businesses within Bernal Heights.

Bernal Heights launches Shop Local Program to Support Local Small Business
But here’s the kicker – the program is incentive-based and the card is basically a rewards card that offers users 5% back on their purchases in the form of Bernal Bucks. As they say, it’s like “frequent buyer miles for Bernal.” And, there is no fee to users or businesses.

Except what you spend, of course. But that’s the point.

So far, the Bucks are being accepted at some 16 businesses in Bernal including Heartfelt, Good Life Grocery, The Liberty Café, Bernal Cutlery, Chloe’s Closet, Recycled Glassworks, Paulie’s Pickling, Succulence Life and Garden, Bernal Family Chiropractic, The Calisto Group, Joshin Bruguera Notary, Liquidamber Garden Design, Locavore Restaurant, Spice Hound, Bernal Homeopathy and Pilates Heights. That leaves roughly 375 businesses to get on board.

The idea was generated by the Bernal Business Alliance in an attempt to woo shoppers away from big chain stores and help support local businesses and spur the local economy. Organizers are aiming to have 2,000 Bernal Heights shoppers sign up for the card.

Incentive-Based Government

At Reset, we are following the idea of incentive-based government closely. Our readers and members know we’ve been pushing hard in support of San Francisco’s pioneering local solar power incentive, which has helped quadruple the number of solar installations in the last few years.

Government dollars are scarce. Can we use the few discretionary dollars we do have to incentivize positive behaviors – like the Bernal Shop Local program?

If you live in Bernal Heights, what do you think of this program? Have you signed up to use it? Will you sign up to use it?

And if you don’t live in Bernal Heights, is this type of program something you’d like to see your neighborhood employ? Perhaps creating “Marina Money” or “Castro Cash”? Let us know.


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