WEST FARGO — While it may have started a little slower than the city expected, the West Fargo gift card program has picked up speed with just a few weeks to go before the promotion ends April 30.

Each household was sent a $25 Love Your Local gift card to be spent at participating West Fargo businesses as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief for residents.

On Monday, April 19, Economic Development Director Lauren Orchard said cards have been redeemed at 97 of the 375 businesses that are participating. The city has recorded 11,243 transactions, with only about $196,120 left to be spent by residents on the cards.

Orchard said businesses such as Cash Wise and Hornbacher's, Deaner's Diner, Petro Serve USA, Sandy's Donuts, Dairy Queen locations, Blarney Stone and J.L. Beers have recorded the most transactions.

Many of the same places are ranked highest in the city for where residents spent the most so far; those include Cash Wise and Hornbacher's, Spitfire, Deaner's Diner, Blarney Stone, Boston's, Traditions, Ostrom's Ace Hardware, Petro Serve and Dairy Queen.

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The cards were set to expire on March 28, but the West Fargo City Commission passed an extension of the program mid-month after some residents received their cards late. As of March 22, 375 residents had spent only about $151,000 of the roughly $420,000 available in gift cards.

"We asked for the program to be extended because the amount of dollars redeemed was lower than we wanted at the midpoint and because a few neighborhoods had a delayed delivery," Communications Director Melissa Richard said. "We worked with those neighborhoods to provide replacement cards, and we wanted to give them adequate time. We encourage everyone to get out into the community and spend their Love Your Local gift cards as soon as possible so the businesses can benefit from the program."

The commission began discussing the program in late December as a way to give residents some monetary relief from the pandemic as well as an incentive to spend at local West Fargo-only businesses. City staff then found an online vendor that helps administer the cards. The gift cards do not have to be spent at only one place. Some participating businesses may also have options for using the gift card online. The city was able to allocate unused federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for the more than 16,200 households in West Fargo. Households included single-family homes as well as apartments.

If entire $425,000 gift card fund is used, the estimated total cost of the project is $486,950. An additional $61,950 is set aside for vendor services to manage the cards and reimbursements to the businesses, marketing materials and overall program costs to distribute the cards, Richard said.

The cards will expire on April 30.