Started by a grass roots organization called Ecolocity, which focuses on issues ranging from affordable housing to urban farming in the Washington, D.C.,-area, the Potomac was introduced to strengthen the local economy and help shield it from any fallout from the national economy.
"[W]e wanted to try to localize our economy to make it more self-sustained and self-sufficient by relying on our own resources, and we found that a local currency tends to do all of these things," said Larry Chang, the director of the Potomac currency.
Potomacs come in 1, 5, 10 and 20 denominations and are decorated with local scenery and icons including D.C. native Marvin Gaye, the Capitol building and a view of the Potomac River.
Each Potomac is worth 95 cents. But when the currency is used at a participating store or at the local farmers market, it exchanges one-for-one. The 5-cent difference is meant as an incentive for the consumer to spend and a disincentive for merchants to exchange their Potomacs for U.S. dollars (since they would only get 95 cents for every Potomac).
Chang admits the currency has a long way to go before it makes a meaningful difference in the community. Only about a dozen businesses currently accept the currency.
Overall, 3,000 Potomacs are currently in circulation, and area residents can order them online or get them as change from participating businesses.
More communities turn to local currencies to stimulate their economies.
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