A small town in Washington is printing its own currency during the pandemic

Performed by: Town Hall Tenino, Washignton, EUA

Country: United States

What happens when a city creates its own social currency? In a bid to lessen the blow of Covid-19, the town of Tenino has started issuing its own wooden dollars that can only be spent at local businesses.

Wayne Fournier, the mayor, decided that Tenino would set aside $10k to give out to low-income residents hurt by the pandemic. But instead of using federal dollars, he’d print the money on thin sheets of wood designed exclusively for use in Tenino. His mint? A 130-year-old newspaper printer from a local museum. Fournier’s central idea is pulled straight from Tenino’s own history.

During the Great Depression, the city printed sets of wooden dollars using that exact same 1890 newspaper printer. Within a year, the wooden currency had helped bring the economy back from the dead.

By reinstating the old currency now, Fournier has accidentally become part of a much bigger movement. With businesses worried about keeping the lights on and people scrambling to find spending money, communities have struggled to keep their local economies afloat. So they’ve revived an old strategy: When in doubt, print your own money. Today, these so-called “local currencies” might help small communities recover from the economic fallout of Covid-19.