KINGSTON – While many businesses and nonprofit organizations are scrambling to cope with the medical side of the coronavirus health crisis, Chris Hewitt, co-founder, and director of the Hudson Valley Current (HVC) is putting the region’s alternative currency, called “Currents” into direct action to mitigate the locally devastating economic effects of the pandemic. Hewitt and the HVC team expect to open the first Current Resilience Market at 628 Broadway in Kingston, using Currents as the mode of exchange in the near future.
Primarily run through Facebook Live or by sharing a video of the store and offering curbside pickup, the Current Resilience Market shelves will be stocked with the products of many of the 450 members of the Current collective, providing shelf-stable food, new clothing, hand sanitizers, soap, honey, gift cards, and other goods.
Hewitt explained that “The Current is a tool of exchange, a community complementary currency. According to the IRS, it’s a form of legal barter called a barter exchange. Community currencies are exchanged between members for their goods and services so that their monetary value stays within the community. This can stabilize a local economy when the national economic system becomes brittle. Community currencies have been used for centuries. We introduced it here in 2013, and I thought now is the time to create a Current Resilience Market to amplify its reach and help our members and the public in this time of crisis.”
In sync with the opening of the Current Resilience Market in Kingston, interest-free lines of credit of up to 1,000 Currents, which HVC also calls “lines of trust,” will be extended to existing and new members of the collective, depending on how they plan to use the alternative currency and what goods or services they can provide and reciprocate to the community. This limited-time expansion of the lines of trust (from the existing lines of credit of 300 Currents) is for people who have lost their jobs or are underemployed. HVC is also offering a special “Heart of Gold” expanded line of trust to nonprofit organizations planning to use Currents to get through the economic crisis. The organization is also announcing a new grant program next week that will make Currents available to the most vulnerable members of our community.
Martin Ping, executive director of the Hawthorne Valley Association, an organizational member of the Current community located in Columbia County, said of the effort, “The time is definitely now if we are going to lean into the disruption and turbulence, and demonstrate the full potential of the Current to bridge the growing chasm between unmet needs and under-utilized resources.” The Association’s initiatives include a full-line of organic/natural foods; a vibrant grocery store that utilizes Currents; an early childhood K-grade 12 Waldorf school; on-farm education programs; a Biodynamic creamery and organic bakery; a mobile grocery market; a 300+ member organic/Biodynamic CSA; social, ecological, and cultural research groups; teacher education programs; and arts initiatives.
None of this activity is new to Chris Hewitt, who helped launch the Current in 2013 and developed a Community Economic Resiliency Plan in 2018. The Plan calls for “…a large group of key community stakeholders, nonprofit leaders, and elected officials to maintain a high quality of life here in times of stress. The Current- as a local currency independent of the dollar, is not connected to the tides of the national currency. It therefore remains strong during fluctuations in the national economy or during economic crises.” The Plan has been moving forward with the support of a high-powered working group roundtable of community leaders and supported by local foundations. Due to circumstances prompted by the unexpected spread of the coronavirus, Hewitt has jump-started the “Red Button” phase of the Plan, putting into motion a number of innovative initiatives geared to stabilizing the local economy as it enters into a recession. Opening the Current Resilience Market in Kingston represents the next step.
Information on the market can be found at https://hudsonvalleycurrent.org/current-resilience-marketplace/.