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Depression-Era Wooden Money Makes Comeback In Small Town

A small town in Washington is reviving a tradition last used in the Great Depression to help families hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis buy food and other necessities or simply enjoy a night out at a local restaurant.

The little town of Tenino, which has fewer than 2,000 residents, is printing wooden money that can be exchanged at local stores and restaurants by the jobless and other community members who have fallen on hard times.

Made of veneer wood, the bills are each worth $25, with families eligible up to $300 in assistance each month. City officials are backing the wooden currency with $10,000 in real cash in a grant program that reimburses local businesses.

The aid program harkens back to the days of the Great Depression, when Tenino civic and business leaders started printing wooden dollars in response to a national bank crisis that saw the collapse of the local lender.

In fact, to print the wooden dollars, Tenino officials rolled out the same printing press, now on display at the Tenino Depot Museum, that was used by their counterparts in the early 1930s.

Chris Hamilton, the store manager at Tenino Market Fresh, said people in town have paid for groceries and repair items with the wooden bills, according to a CNN report.

“We basically treat the wood money just like cash,” Hamilton told the cable news network.

Don Juan’s Mexican Restaurant, Brother’s Pizza, Hedden’s Pharmacy and Subway are among the other establishments in town accepting the newly-printed wooden currency.

Each bill is signed and numbered, and carries a phrase in Latin that translates to, “We’ve got this handled.”

Still, there could be a potential downside to the program, which comes as people across the country increasingly rely on credit and debit cards, or mobile payments, to avoid the risk of coronavirus transmission that potentially comes with exchanging cash.

The Federal Reserve in March indicated it would be printing fresh money that had not come into contact with the virus, while also quarantining cash that came in from Asia and other regions of the globe for seven to 10 days.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.