Y2K Generates Interest in Local Currency Concept

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Concern over how the banking industry will weather the Y2K challenge has led some communities to think about adopting local currencies and creating resource banks.

Jacqueline Miller of Partnerships for Change in San Francisco said: 'People are open to these concepts now. There is incredible interest. We are very grateful for Y2K because we are getting a lot of phone calls about Bay Area Bucks, Bay Area Benefits and our Resource Exchange Bank.'

Attorney Andrew Michael, who heads Partnerships for Change, talks to groups to explain how to set up systems that tap local resources and use a local or regional currency to reward services.

'Our Resource Exchange Bank is an inventory of people resources,' said Miller. 'If things break down with Y2K, we do not have to depend on the established system but can call upon participants.'

The movement to establish community currencies was under way before Y2K became an issue of general concern. One group, Ithaca HOURS in Ithaca, N.Y., began in 1991, and Partnerships for Change started up in 1993.

According to proponents, local currencies allow communities to control their economic growth by keeping capital, and decisions for using that capital, local. The currencies value labor in terms of time devoted to a task.

Under the Ithaca HOURS plan, each 'hour' is worth $10, the average hourly wage in the area, and can only be spent locally.