On Tuesday, Los Angeles moved toward banning cashless retail businesses after comparing current strictures to those of other prominent cities. The City Council instructed their personnel to prepare a report examining other policies to settle on a beneficial one for LA. They were particularly concerned with vulnerable demographics becoming affected by the rise of cashless retail operations and being left without available financial options. Considering the city’s well-being as a whole, LA’s council is delving deeply into whether cashless retail operations benefit the residents of LA or whether everyone might be better off without them.

The council voted 13-0. Council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman were absent during the vote for a motion instructing the chief legislative analyst to collaborate with the city attorney on the policy. 

The motion was introduced on August 15th of this year. It sought to ’empower’ residents to become active participants in the city’s economic life, encouraging them to purchase goods and services. Residents, commonly referred to as ‘Angelenos,’ are currently denied access to credit or the initiation of bank accounts. 

The motion states, “Others may not be able to participate in the formal banking system, or may be excluded from that system against their will…barring the use of cash as a payment method means excluding too many people.” Cashless retail operations are culprits for this exclusion, putting them on the proverbial chopping block in fighting this type of systemic oppression—whether inadvertently implemented or not.

A comprehensive report in 2017 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found that 17% of all African-American households and 14% of Latino families in the U.S. did not have bank accounts to call their own. This statistic reveals how widespread these financial limitations are. Cashless retail operations aren’t helping to resolve this issue. They’re a force propelling economic and systemic trends toward the opposite of an ideal outcome, holding populations in need left wanting a solution. 

When businesses don’t accept cash payments, some demographics are negatively affected. Youth, elderly, homeless, and immigrant populations all experience an impact that cashless retail operations are partially responsible for, inspiring the instigation of the motion currently in play. Cashless retail operations might seem convenient on the surface, but the negative impact on already vulnerable populations doesn’t make the juice worth the squeeze. 

The motion further stated, “The city must remain vigilant in ensuring that our economy is inclusionary and accessible to everyone…To ensure that all city residents—including those who lack access to other forms of payment—can participate in the city’s economic life, we should adopt an ordinance that allows them to pay cash for goods and many services.”

With a mindset focused on every resident in Los Angeles and a plan to formulate a policy that works best for everyone, city council members have embarked on a mission. They aim to achieve an elevated level of financial access for everyone in the city, one legislative move at a time. We’ll keep an eye on the developments of this motion and provide updates accordingly.