A growing number of businesses, from concessions at sporting events to restaurants and big box chain stores, have stopped accepting cash as payment for goods and services, forcing people to use debit or credit cards or technology to pay their tab.
Bills filed Wednesday by Rep. Matt Willhite, and Sen. Shevrin Jones, though, would put an end to the no-cash practice by requiring most Florida businesses, from food trucks to health care providers, to accept cash as payment for goods and services for in-store purchases.
“Our cash isn’t printed in China. I want to be able to use what I earned and made in this country,” Willhite told Florida Politics Wednesday. “Otherwise, we need to take the United States of America off of our cash.”
Willhite also has concerns that the no-cash policy is exclusive and can leave some consumers behind. A Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation study shows that 3.8% of Florida households were “unbanked” in 2019, meaning they did not have access to a bank-issued debit or credit card.
Willhite said he has gotten push back from some businesses that are impacted by the bills.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce did not have an official position on the bill because it hasn’t been reviewed by the group’s policy committee, said Carolyn Johnson, the group’s senior director of business, economic development and innovation policy. But Johnson said the Florida Chamber generally opposes bills that restrict businesses’ ability to make their own choices.
Immediate attempts to contact Jones for this story were unsuccessful. His bill is SB 408.
The bills define a business as an entity “operating at a fixed, permanent physical premises, from a vehicle or other mobile space, or from a temporary physical premises.” “Cash” means legal tender of the United States in the form of coins or currency. But the bill makes clear that businesses don’t have to accept any bill larger than $20.
The bills exempt from the cash mandate businesses providing services by accountants, architects, attorneys, engineers, financial advisers, insurance agents, interior designers, software developers, and “management and other consultants.”
Licensed medical or allied health care practitioners, though, are not exempt from the mandate.
Additionally, there is an exemption from the cash mandate if business owners suspect the money is counterfeit.
Penalties under the bills range from $2,500 for a first offense, up to $5,000 for a second offense, and up to $10,000 for a third or
When asked about the broad exemptions, Willlhite said he was willing to work with interested parties and called the proposal a “rough draft.”
“Every bill I have worked on I am always open for amending and changing” he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses were refusing to accept cash as payment for services rendered for a number of different reasons. Cash can be slow and it can encourage theft, for instance.
“I think it’s been heightened and elevated because of COVID. A lot of people use it as a reason for why they really won’t take (cash),” he said.