Help for Ukraine
The whole world is watching the devastation being heaped on Ukraine. We all look forward to the day when hostilities are over and the Ukrainian people can get back to their lives. What happens then? Who will rebuild, and who will pay for it?
Western countries will likely provide aid in a fashion analogous to the Marshall Plan in Europe after the end of WWII. Rebuilding will be a massive undertaking. That means significant money and plans for infrastructure in particular. However, there is also great need at the community level to help rebuild Main Streets and the small businesses that nurture local economies.
Big business, big government and big money have a very poor understanding of what life is like for Main Streets, small businesses and local economies. So they cannot be expected to provide the tools needed by communities to effectively rebuild Ukraine at the small scale. However, we can.
The team at National Commonwealth Group, Inc. (NCG), a 20+ year non-profit, has developed a comprehensive economic development plan to address regions that are particularly hard hit financially. Called the Sustainable Communities Framework, it’s based on the concept of non-profit organizations like ours issuing a digital complementary currency (not crypto) as a means of funding local economic development programs (See Money).
SCF is simply the modern, technology-enabled expression of an economic tool used for centuries to restore and fortify economies in times of need. We are in the process of launching our first SCF program in Florida, as described in this overview document (the second page has a reading list for more information).
In November, we received an invitation to the White House in early 2022 to share details of our program. The war in Ukraine has necessarily postponed our visit. Nonetheless, such interest from the top is gratifying and highlights the potential significance of our program.
Our team has realized that the tools we developed could be used by the Ukrainian people to restore their local economies. We expect that our pilot project in Florida will provide a model for Ukrainian communities that can be done without government involvement. They can apply our concept out of the box.
HOW GOVERNMENT CAN HELP
We have identified U.S. regulations that, if changed, could dramatically improve the potential benefits and effectiveness of our program. We have listed the type of changes needed on our website at https://scf.green/government/. Note that we are proposing several small changes to regulations (either by Congress or by Executive Order), but the key one is to make currencies issued by nonprofits like ours, for purposes of regional economic development, tax exempt.
President Biden recently issued a new Executive Order re: cryptocurrencies, in part to help combat their use by Russia to circumvent sanctions. And as much as that EO is needed to address problems with global significance, there may be unintended consequences to small businesses and local community economic development.
In particular we are focused on digital assets issued by communities as local virtual currencies. These are designed to be stable and to circulate, enabling local transactions and community-focused economic growth, as opposed to the global, asset appreciation, speculative cryptocurrency model. Those local currencies could be buried under the rules and regulations precipitated by the March 9th EO.
Thus, not only would the legislation/EO we have proposed be beneficial in its own right, but it can help safeguard local currencies from unintended negative consequences. A more nuanced EO, as proposed here https://scf.green/executive-order/, would retain those positive consequences and add protection for local, transaction-oriented currencies.
One potential program that this would enable is a citizen stipend, similar to basic income. IRS currently treats transactions in virtual currencies as taxable. However, if the money could be issued on a tax-exempt basis, a monthly grant would not trigger a tax liability for the recipient and such programs can then go forward unimpeded.
This would also get around the problem of getting Congress to fund such programs, as no taxpayer money is needed.
COMMUNITY SELF-HELP WITH SELF-FUNDING
While this would clearly be beneficial here in the U.S., it may literally mean life or death in Ukraine. Reconstruction funds would inevitably go to the government, big business and NGOs. But without some means of putting money in the pockets of ordinary Ukrainians, their misery would be needlessly extended. Untold numbers of businesses no longer exist, along with the millions of jobs they provided. Without jobs, where will people get the money to buy necessities like food from the businesses that still remain or will be formed? From the bakeries and coffee shops that serve as communal meeting places to the small manufacturing and service companies plugged into wider networks, small local businesses are the springboard to community-level restoration.
If the Ukrainian people could issue their own digital currency as we do under the SCF, and their government treats it as non-taxable, money would be readily and freely available to fuel local economic reconstruction. This form of citizen stipend is arguably the fastest way to bring communities back to life and restore community-level economic growth.
Basic income experiments around the world over several decades have demonstrated that the concept works. Unfortunately, they also demonstrate that funding of those programs is the key barrier to implementation and continuation, a problem our SCF program solves.
The fact that what is achievable here would also be applicable to Ukraine makes this an initiative of historic significance.
 As explained in the above bulletin, the IRS currently taxes transactions in complementary currencies (such as salaries paid in them) as though the transactions were in dollars. And any tax due has to be paid in USD. If a non-profit complementary currency issuer and the recipient do not have the USD to cover those taxes, programs like job creation initiatives and income supplements never get off the ground.