Senator Hill Introduces Bill to Prohibit Discrimination Against Cash Payments

February 05, 2020

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – February 5, 2020

State Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Bill to Prohibit Discrimination Against Cash Payments

SACRAMENTO – Senator Jerry Hill introduced legislation today to require retailers in California to accept cash payments for goods and services purchased in person, lifting a barrier for would-be customers who cannot participate in cashless transactions.

Senate Bill 926 does not prohibit cashless transactions, but retailers that now rely on them exclusively would also have to accept dollars and cents as payment if the legislation becomes law.

“Requiring acceptance of cash payments not only remedies the predicament posed by emergencies, such as a power outage that takes down registers at stores,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “It addresses far more serious – and I would like to believe unintended – consequences. The result of retail stores and businesses that operate exclusively with cashless transactions is economic, racial and age discrimination. Low-income, unbanked individuals are barred from buying food, other goods and services from such places if they only have cash for payments.”

A 2017 national survey by the FDIC found that 8.4 million households are unbanked – meaning that none of the 14.4 million adults or 6.4 million minors who make up those households have a checking or savings account. The same survey found in California that 20.5 percent of Black households and 14.5 percent of Hispanic households are unbanked. Examining family incomes, the survey found 19 percent of California families with annual incomes of $15,000 to $30,000 are unbanked. Among families with annual incomes of less than $15,000, the unbanked soared to 27.3 percent. In addition, among Californians who are 25 to 64 and living with disabilities, 20.7 percent are unbanked. In contrast, overall in California just 7.4 percent of households are unbanked.

“When retailers don’t accept cash, they’re effectively locking out workers in low-wage jobs, communities of color, and our homeless neighbors,” said Andrea Zinder, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 324 and the UFCW Western States Council. “UFCW Western States Council is proud to support Senator Hill’s legislation because our members believe necessities like food and clothing shouldn’t be gated off to the poor and people of color. This bill will allow Californians, regardless of ability to access debit or credit cards, to participate in our world-leading economy and help to stem the widening racial wealth gap.”

Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty also expressed strong support for SB 926. “A significant number of low-income Californians are unbanked and many are paid wages in cash,” she said. “Western Center is proud to work with Senator Hill to make sure that these low-income Californians, who already experience segregation in housing, employment and education, do not also experience segregation in our economy.”

Another recent study further illustrates the problem, showing that age is also a factor in reliance on cash. A report released last year by the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco found that 73 percent of transactions studied in October 2018 involved in-person payments – of which 35 percent were made in cash. Looking at transactions by age group, the Federal Reserve study found individuals 18 to 25 used cash the most often with 34 percent using cash to make payments, instead of using credit or debit cards, prepaid or electronic options, checks or other means. People 65 and older had the second highest rate of cash use with 33 percent making their payments in dollars and cents. Fifty-five- to 64-year-olds came in third with 31 percent making payments in cash. In all age groups, people typically used cash to pay food or personal care items. Cash also was generally used in less expensive transactions. Almost half the payments amounting to less than $10 and 42 percent of payments under $25 were made in cash, the study showed.

“Prohibiting cash payments is discriminatory on multiple levels,” said Senator Hill. “SB 926 ensures equal access to goods and services purchased in person.”

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The bill will be posted at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ within 24 hours.

Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov

Updated May 18, 2020 to add fact sheet.