The New York city council has voted to ban cashless businesses in a bid to check the “excesses of the digital economy” and end discrimination against vulnerable New Yorkers.
The New York City legislature has overwhelmingly backed a bill requiring brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash.
The legislation, which was “almost unanimously passed,” aims to levy a fine on any retail outlets, stores, bars, and restaurants that refuse to accept cash payment.
Motivating lawmakers was the often-repeated contention by various New York politicians, activists, and prominent residents that electronic-only payments put unbanked members of the community at a disadvantage.
The latter are individuals who have no bank account or access to credit, and are most likely to be low-income people, undocumented immigrants, people of colour, or seniors.
The argument has empirical support.
A 2019 report by New York City’s department of consumer and worker protection found that 11% of households in the city have no bank account, while about 22% of households are underbanked – meaning they use alternatives to bank accounts for some payments.
The bill needs the signature of New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio before it can become law.
A national movement to ban cashless businesses
If the Mayor endorses the city council’s vote, New York City will become the latest US jurisdiction to ban businesses from accepting only payment by debit or credit.
New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Francisco enacted their own bans on cashless businesses in 2019, in what has become a growing nationwide movement to disallow non-cash businesses.
Taking to Twitter after the landmark vote, councilman Ritchie Torres, the bill’s sponsor, wrote:
“No longer in NYC will brick-and-mortar businesses have the right to refuse cash [and] effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit.”
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, commented:
“Communities of colour in New York City are more than twice as likely to be unbanked and are far less likely to host a branch of a bank than the national average.”
“This critical bill,” Appelbaum said, will ensure everyone can shop or eat at any store in New York City.