A dollar goes a long way in this economy.
Newcastle businessman Taiyo Namba, who runs Susuru and Nagisa restaurants, and project coordinator Timothy Cooper, are promoting a plan to reward frontline health and safety workers in Newcastle and stimulate the economy for small businesses at the same time.
Their idea, the Thank You Newcastle - Let's Give Back initiative, is to pay tribute to Newcastle nurses, cleaners and admin staff in the health system in particular for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering all 9000 of such workers in the Hunter a $50 voucher they can spend at any business that participates in the program.
To participate businesses will only need to sign up on the Thank You Newcastle app, Mr Namba, the project manager, said. Likewise, any health worker who wishes to obtain a $50 voucher will be able to sign up directly on the app.
Mr Namba and Mr Cooper anticipate the cost of the program, which could be $350,000, will be met by a Go Fund Me fund-raising campaign, corporate donations and hopefully, a substantial grant from Newcastle City Council. If the project goes to plan, the Thank You Newcastle initiative will run during the month of July, helping to revive local small businesses at the same time it honours frontline workers.
"It's a very simple system, for the good of businesses, and frontline people," Mr Namba said.
"We want to make it very understandable, very simple."
Mr Namba said the app will be developed locally. The pair believe the concept is a winner, and have already considered offering the app concept at no cost to any local government who may want to launch a similar program.
"We think it's a first for Australia," said Mr Cooper, who is coordinating the project with Vanessa Swilks. "We hope other councils can take it on board."
The initiative calls for the participating business where a $50 voucher is spent, to retain $40, with the remaining $10 going back into the pool of funds for the project.
The organisers will not be taking any fees.
On the business side, Mr Namba said the goal is simple: "We are looking at ways to increase foot traffic into Newcastle. I know how hard it is at the moment."
Although heavily reliant on council funding for the project, the organisers say the "thank you" plan will go ahead regardless of the amount of money available.
"It's a goodwill thing as well," Mr Namba said. "I think everyone wants to give back something but they don't have the opportunity to do that."
The Thank You Newcastle program will have an app and website.
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