A plan from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to bar Evanston businesses from refusing to accept cash failed to win final adoption at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Instead, on an 8-1 vote, it was referred to two committees for further review.
Reid’s proposal, first reported by Evanston Now on Dec. 4, had sailed through the Human Services Committee last month.
And it was approved for introduction by the full City Council on Jan. 9 with only Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) opposing it.
But after more council members heard over the past two weeks from local merchants who want the option of going cashless, its prospects greatly dimmed Monday night.
That left Reid fuming, claiming that to allow cashless businesses just “keeps the boot on the necks of people who have been disenfranchised.”
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) suggested exempting small businesses from the proposed rule.
He said he’d heard from retail shopkeepers in his ward — often women who may be alone in their stores — and for reasons of safety are reluctant to handle cash.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she agreed with Nieuwsma and regretted that the city hadn’t had more conversations with the business community before the issue came to the Council.
Suffredin said voting for the measure without complete information — in a city full of vacancies and businesses running GoFundMe campaigns to try to stay alive — would be irresponsible.
But Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said cashless businesses are a problem for people of color. “I’m not personally disenfranchised from the banking system at the moment,” Harris said, but she added that she has family and friends who are.
Over a year ago, the City Council approved a financial literacy training program in part designed to reduce the share of residents who are unbanked. But there was no mention of that, or any other effort to get the unbanked into the banking system, during Monday’s council debate.
The latest FDIC survey says 5.4% of people in the Chicago metro area were unbanked in 2021 — down from 7.3% in 2019.
Unbanked rates specific to Evanston were not available from the survey.
The proposal is now scheduled to be reviewed by the Economic Development Committee and the Equity and Empowerment Commission.