As Ama­zon leads charge to go cash­less, some states and cities are push­ing back

Of­fi­cials fear the poor could be left be­hind

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS - By Olga Kharif and Krista Gmelich

Rebecca Es­parza works with home­less peo­ple and, hav­ing once lived in a shel­ter her­self, knows what it’s like to nav­i­gate the U.S. economy if you don’t have much money. For most of her clients, cash is king be­cause they lack ac­cess to the fi­nan­cial tools many Amer­i­cans take for granted – check­ing ac­counts, debit cards, pay­ment apps.

Es­parza wor­ries that the grow­ing num­ber of cash­less stores and restau­rants around the coun­try will fur­ther marginal­ize low-income peo­ple at a time when in­equal­ity is al­ready the highest in more than half a cen­tury.

“We just for­get just how poor the poor can ac­tu­ally be in this coun­try,” says Es­parza, who works at the af­fil­i­ate of the non­profit Fam­ily Prom­ise in Lawrence, Kan., and once sold her blood to sup­port her­self and her five chil­dren. “I could to­tally be part of that cash­less sys­tem to­day, but it would to­tally dis­crim­i­nate.”

Leg­is­la­tors around the coun­try agree with Es­parza and are tak­ing steps to halt or slow the steady march to­ward a cash­less so­ci­ety. Ear­lier this month, New Jersey passed leg­is­la­tion ban­ning many kinds of cash­less stores, join­ing Mas­sachusetts, which has a 1978 law pro­hibit­ing discrimination against cus­tomers opt­ing to use cash, and Philadelphia, which adopted a sim­i­lar law in Fe­bru­ary.

San Fran­cisco has pro­posed a ban on stores like Ama­zon Go and Nes­tle-owned Blue Bot­tle cof­fee shops, which don’t ac­cept cash. Ritchie Tor­res of the New York City Coun­cil is lead­ing ef­forts to ban cash­less re­tail there, and law­mak­ers in Chicago and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have con­sid­ered sim­i­lar pro

Bloomberg News

This Ama­zon Go store in Seat­tle does not ac­cept cash. Pro­po­nents say it makes pur­chases quicker and eas­ier. But oth­ers worry that cash­less stores will fur­ther marginal­ize low-income peo­ple.

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