It went 10 days longer than planned. Just under $16K in Chamber Bucks were awarded and more than $200,000 was spent at Crookston businesses.

The CHEDA Board of Directors this week agreed to cover essentially all of the costs associated with the “Chamber Bucks” promotion it partnered with the Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce on during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, an initiative launched to boost spending at local businesses hurting because of the pandemic.

The promotion was initially advertised as running from March 31 to April 20. If customers met various spending thresholds at Crookston businesses they were awarded with various amounts of Chamber Bucks, which can also be spent at local businesses. But somewhere along the line, the promotion was inadvertently extended to April 30, and as word of it spread in the community and the spring weather started to improve, the Chamber Bucks promotion did brisk business over the additional 10 days it was in effect.

In all, just under $16,000 in Chamber Bucks were awarded over the 30 days, and more than $200,000 was spent at Crookston businesses overall.

With the CHEDA Board, CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth and Mayor Dale Stainbrook agreeing that the Chamber has very little money available to cover the costs associated with the Chamber Bucks promotion, the board unanimously approved two motions this week. One was to cover $5,140 in costs that accrued over the 10 additional days the initiative was in effect, and the other was to cover $9,860 in promotion-related costs from March 31 to April 20, bringing the total CHEDA allocation to $15,000.

When board members discussed how much of the cost to actually cover, Stainbrook was the first to suggest that CHEDA cover all of the expense.

“The Chamber (doesn’t) have any money; pay the whole thing,” the mayor said.

Hoiseth was in favor of CHEDA stepping in, while also being mindful that taxpayer dollars are involved.

“We need to recognize that the Chamber basically funds itself with (membership) dues and little fundraisers; they’re not sitting on a big bankroll and they did a nice job on this,” Hoiseth said. “So we can be good stewards of the community, but knowing that we’re also dealing with taxpayer dollars here. But, also, these are taxpayers using Chamber Bucks.”

Board member and city council member Steve Erickson, owner of Erickson Embroidery and 2nd St. Boutique, which were allowed to reopen on May 18 when the stay-at-home order ended, noted that the Chamber got some new business members out of the Chamber Bucks promotion, and that more than $100 in Chamber Bucks were spent at his store Monday.

But, despite that, Erickson wondered what the Chamber’s back-up plan was, had the CHEDA Board not agreed to pay $15,000 for the promotion.

“We asked that question and never did get an answer,” Hoiseth said. “They were hoping the CHEDA Board would fill in the gap.

“I don’t think anyone expected the promotion to go as well as it did,” he continued. “There was the extra 10 days, the weather got nice and there was a lot of talk in the community. …It as a really good show of community support when times are tough.”

Erickson advised that in the future the Chamber have a back-up funding plan in place if a similar scenario were to arise.

Board President Kurt Heldstab thanked the board for supporting the allocation to the Chamber.

“I wasn’t sure how this was going to go,” he said of the discussion and vote in favor.

As for where the funds will come from, Hoiseth said CHEDA has some dollars earmarked for promotional purposes, and also some available dollars in its Economic Development Administration budget.