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Philadelphia takes a step closer to banning cashless stores in the city

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 5, 2019

As technology gives consumers more ways to pay, including with their smartphones, some stores have gone cashless to improve efficiency, avoid the hassle of handling cash and reduce the risk of robbery. In Philadelphia, that includes the salad chain Sweetgreen and Bluestone Lane, a coffee shop.

But proponents of the bill argue that cashless stores effectively discriminate against poor consumers who do not have access to credit or bank accounts, especially in a city with one of the highest poverty levels in the country. Nearly 6 percent of the Philadelphia region was unbanked in 2017 and roughly 22 percent were considered “underbanked” because they have bank accounts, according to the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation.

Most speakers at the hearing supported the bill, but even proponents said a ban on cashless stores should not be permanent. Some said a cashless economy is eventually inevitable, but that a “pause” is needed to to get more citizens into bank accounts.

“It’s about making sure that all of our citizens are included in our future,” said Kevin Thomas Jr., of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger Free Communities. “This bill stops discrimination and gives innovation and exclusion a chance to catch up.”

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