DC Council looks at cashless businesses, displaced workers in new bills

The D.C. Council is already planning for life after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s looking at legislation that would affect pandemic-displaced workers and businesses that have moved to fully cashless operations.

One bill under scrutiny would require businesses to rehire employees that were laid off because of the pandemic, when and if their position or a similar position opens back up. The bill exclusively affects retail businesses and hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, event spaces and hotels.

Employees that were let go on or before March 1 would be eligible to get their jobs back. Hotel employees would be eligible for first rehire if they were laid off on or before Dec. 1, 2019.

“There is a right for employees who have been let go since pandemic, or in the case of hotels slightly preceding the pandemic, to come back to work if there are positions that open,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

The bill would affect businesses that have 35 or more employees. If there are fewer positions available than employees that were laid off, the job would be awarded based on seniority. Employees who are offered their old position would have at least 10 days to accept.

Another piece of legislation that the D.C. Council is mulling over is ending the business practice of exclusively using cashless forms of payments.

In 2016, cash made up 25% of all payment transactions. During the pandemic, more and more businesses refuse cash to ensure social distancing between staff and customers.

“The fact is one-third of District of Columbia residents are unbanked or underbanked and don’t have access to a card as a form of payment,” said At-Large Council member David Grosso.

A recent survey suggests that around 8% of D.C. households do not use banks, and 21% are “underbanked,” said Grosso, adding that the majority of those without credit or debit cards are Black residents.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income, undocumented, young patrons that they are not welcome in their establishments,” Grosso said.

One benefit of going cashless often brought up by businesses is that it often makes them less of a target for crime, especially robbery and forged bills.

Parking lots that don’t accept cash would be exempt, as well as mail-, internet- and phone-based sales. Also, the bill would not affect businesses who have gone cashless for health and safety reasons during the pandemic.

The D.C. Council will have a final vote on the bills later this month before they go to approval to Mayor Muriel Bowser.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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