On Thursday, the Evanston Equity and Empowerment Commission recommended an ordinance to the City Council that would ban cashless establishments, in order to ensure equity for all Evanston residents.

Ordinance 2-0-23 would require all Evanston food and retail establishments to accept cash as a form of payment to be inclusive of Evanston residents who may not have a bank account or debit or credit card. Violations of this ordinance would result in a civil penalty of $1,000 for a first offense and $1,500 for subsequent violations.

According to Evanston 8th Ward Councilmember Devon Reid, the national unbanked population is about 4.5%. In Evanston, this would account for close to 5,000 people who do not have access to regular forms of cashless payment. This proportion is higher among Black and Latinx residents, whose national unbanked averages are about 15% and 9%, respectively.

Reid said that other places, including New York City and the state of New Jersey, have already implemented similar measures with success.

Throughout Chair Karla Thomas’s presentation, the commission discussed the nuances of the ordinance. Commissioners Hilda Morales and Jane Grover emphasized the disproportionate impact cashless establishments have on youth and undocumented residents while Councilmember Reid mentioned identity theft as a reason one might choose to use cash instead of a debit or credit card.

The Commission voted unanimously to recommend the legislation to the City Council, with some notes in their memo: The Commission wants to see medical services included in the establishments that cannot be cashless and include in the ordinance the inequitable impact cashless establishments have on undocumented, youth, Black and Latinx Evanston residents.

Thomas continued with an overview of the Referral Tracker, a spreadsheet that follows the paths of proposed ordinances. The Commission, from now on, will look through an equity and empowerment lens at possible policy changes each month, and “determine whether [they] could result in disproportionate impact to marginalized committees,” according to Thomas.

Now, Ordinance 2-0-23 will head back to the City Council for voting. The Equity and Empowerment Commission hopes that this ordinance will pass, and will continue to evaluate and recommend other policies that promote equity and inclusion in the Evanston community. For this specific ordinance, commissioners prioritized the inclusion and freedom of Evanston residents.

“It’s important that people have the option,” Commissioner Hilda Morales said.

Thumbnail image "money" by khrawlings is licensed under CC BY 2.0.