Business · Merced

Merced rolls out $500k gift card program as coronavirus relief

The Merced City Council approved a $500,000 gift card program Monday intended to benefit both businesses and individuals who have been negatively impacted by the economic fallout due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Merced households will receive a letter with a code that can be redeemed for $25 worth of merchandise at participating local businesses. 

“These are tough times for our residents and our business community,” said Mayor Mike Murphy in a statement. “Anything that we can do to help them out is going to benefit the city in the long-term. This is part of a package of financial assistance that the city put together to help people out during the crisis.” 

The Central Valley Opportunity Fund contributed $250,000 for the program, which the city matched. 

“We like that this is a program assisting the people of Merced who have been hurt economically during the pandemic, but this also provides an economic boost to the local businesses that are the bedrock of the local economy,” said Sam Geil from the Central Valley Opportunity Fund. 

Merced’s COVID-19 Recovery Program totals $2.37 million in aid and includes assistance to renters, small businesses, the Food Bank, the Hotel-Motel Association and a one-time utility bill rebate for all customers. 

The city has partnered with gift card company Giftbar, LLC, to roll out the program. Giftbar has lowered its fees to work with the city, and the program will cost $37,000 to administer. 

“We are thrilled to work with the City of Merced and bring this innovative new local economic stimulus program to its residents and businesses,” said Giftbar CEO Alex Minicucci in a statement. “We have a passion for supporting small business owners, and this is a great way to ensure local dollars get spent at local merchants.” 

To redeem the gift card, Merced residents will go to Giftbar’s website and register for the product or service that they want. Merced will send a letter to every resident explaining the process within the next 90 days.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at