Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council postponed a decision Wednesday on requiring businesses to accept cash.

In an ordinance proposed by council member Nate Nehring, businesses in unincorporated Snohomish County would have to accept cash up to $200.

Since the pandemic, many local businesses have moved to a cashless model, only accepting cards or other forms of digital payment. But not accepting cash affects people who have limited or no access to banking services and rely mostly on cash.

In a public hearing Wednesday, council members posed questions about how businesses would be notified of the change. County staff are researching how best to do this.

The county doesn’t know the exact number of businesses that would be affected by the change.

At the hearing, Seth Cooper, an attorney from Marysville, endorsed the ordinance, arguing it would be helpful for people who are low-income and don’t have access to banks.

Cooper, the only member of the public to speak at the hearing, felt it would also benefit people who don’t trust banks and would rather use cash than be “sucked into the credit-debit cycle.”

“There is a risk in some merchants using cash for everything, but there is also a concern to consumers who have experienced credit card fraud from even the most minute purchases,” he told the council.

The ordinance would be enforced through civil action. If a business denies someone’s cash payment, the customer could file suit against the business.

Council member Strom Peterson expressed concern about the provision. He said it doesn’t give the county the opportunity to educate a business owner who may not have been aware of the change.

If passed, it would take effect six months later, allowing businesses time to prepare to accept cash.

The ordinance would exempt certain establishments, including food trucks, businesses with histories of theft and those located within homes. Businesses that fall within these guidelines would have to claim their exemption through the county auditor’s office and pay a fee.

Council members didn’t feel they had enough information to approve the ordinance Wednesday. They voted to push the discussion a week and will revisit the idea Sept. 27.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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