Rep. Payne, Jr. Fights to Protect Cash as Payment Choice for Customers

May 21, 2020
Press Release

Media Contact:  Patrick Wright   --  Patrick.Wright@mail.house.gov

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. wants stores to continue to honor American currency as a form of payment during and after the current coronavirus public health crisis.    

Rep. Payne, Jr. wrote a letter to Kevin Johnson, President and CEO of Starbucks, after the company said it would shift to more “cashless experiences” for customer transactions.  In the letter, Rep. Payne, Jr. said such a move could send a message that millions of customers who prefer to pay cash are not wanted at Starbucks stores.  Starbucks is one of several companies that plan to refuse American currency to pay for goods and services when normal store hours are restored after coronavirus social restrictions.  Rep. Payne, Jr. sponsored a bill, the Payment Choice Act (H.R. 2650), to make it illegal to reject dollars and cents as payment for goods and services.  The bipartisan bill has 41 co-sponsors, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn.   

“I am really concerned that these decisions could alienate millions of consumers, particularly lower income Americans and other vulnerable populations,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “At least 55 million Americans rely on cash as their main form of payment for everything from rent to their household necessities.  Clearly, Starbucks is saying that these customers are not important to them.  Besides, there are few things more American than cash.  A few years ago, we were fighting over who should be represented on our bills.  Now, it seems companies are more than ready to get rid of them entirely.”

Rep. Payne, Jr. has been working diligently to fight for his constituents and all Americans during the coronavirus global pandemic.  He introduced a bill to get hazard pay for the nation’s federal frontline workers, such as TSA agents, daycare workers, and veteran health care workers.  He co-wrote a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a ventilator design that could help supply local hospitals in New Jersey and the rest of the country that the FDA approved a week later.  As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response & Recovery of the House Committee on Homeland Security, he has been in constant contact with FEMA officials to support them in their efforts to aid and protect the American people.       

In addition, he has voted to approve five coronavirus-related aid bills in the House to help the nation survive this public health crisis.  The most recent legislation, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) was a $3 trillion emergency stimulus package that would provide roughly $1 trillion to state and local governments to help them pay coronavirus-related costs, another $1,200 payment to low and middle-income Americans with a maximum of $6,000 per family, $200 billion in hazard pay to essential workers, and an additional $75 billion to improve the country’s coronavirus testing and contact tracing. 

The first law, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074), provided $8.3 billion to fund medical efforts.  The second one, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), allowed Americans to get free coronavirus testing and workers to get mandatory paid sick leave.  The third one, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) authorized more than $2 trillion to Americans in coronavirus aid, including direct payments to low and middle-income workers, increased unemployment benefits, $349 billion to small businesses through grants and interest-free loans, $150 billion to state and local governments to help them handle coronavirus-related expenses, and $200 billion to support America’s hospitals and health care workers.

The fourth bill, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), allocated $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program to allow small businesses to pay their employees, $75 billion to health care facilities for protective equipment and care, and $25 billion to enhance the country’s coronavirus testing capability.   

The Starbucks letter is listed below:

May 20, 2020

 

Mr. Kevin Johnson

President and Chief Operating Officer

Starbucks

2401 Utah Avenue South

Seattle, WA   98134

 

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I am disappointed to hear Starbucks stores plan to eliminate cash as a form of payment for your company’s products.  I understand the need to keep customers safe from infection during this coronavirus global pandemic and that your website stated that the “handling of cash creates consumer concerns about the spread of viruses.”  But there is no connection between coronavirus transmission and American currency.  Such an action creates customer fears and does not alleviate them.  In addition, it threatens to send a message that certain customers are not welcome in your stores.    

According to the Federal Reserve, there are an estimated 55 million unbanked or underbanked adult Americans.  This is a staggering number of Americans who your employees would disenfranchise every day simply for trying to buy a cup of coffee.  Those numbers are only going to increase.  More than 35 million Americans have lost their jobs and face a future rife with economic uncertainty.  Many of these consumers could lose their credit cards and be forced to use cash for everyday expenses.  They would be customers your stores would reject based on their choice of payment.   

I do not believe Starbucks wants to tell a customer base of potentially 80 million Americans that they are unwanted in your establishments.  Such a policy is an affront to every hardworking American who simply wishes to buy a cup of coffee with the only means they have available to them.

Therefore, I respectfully ask that you continue your current policy and allow all customers the freedom to choose a payment option that works for them, whether they choose cash, a credit or debit card, or digital payments.  I will continue to push my legislation, the Payment Choice Act (H.R. 2650) to provide that freedom of choice in how they wish to pay for goods or services to all Americans.

I thank you for your consideration of my request.  I look forward to working with you to find an equitable solution so that all customers, and potential customers, have freedom in payment choice.

Sincerely,

Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Member of Congress

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