A measure has been approved requiring all municipal employees, nearly 2,000 people, to receive their paychecks through direct deposit amid the coronavirus pandemic. A similar measure was rejected five years earlier.
Under the measure, all employees with the exception of temporary and seasonal workers will need to supply bank account information for direct deposit by June 1. Employees wishing to opt-out of direct deposit will have to go through a long and complex process.
Members of the City Council approved the measure in an 7-1 vote on Tuesday. Councilwoman Ruby Cotton was absent. Councilwoman Lilisa Mimms opposed the measure, citing the cumbersome opt-out provision.
“Why do they have to write a letter and come before the council?” asked Mimms. An employee has to write a letter with a reason for opting out and has to come before the City Council. She suggested the opt-out be done through the personnel office. A resolution has to be passed for an employee to receive an exemption.
Five years ago, nearly half of municipal employees were not using direct deposit. No percentage figure was provided on Tuesday. There was also a proposal to connect unbanked employees with financial intuitions in 2015.
Paterson has an unbanked – people without bank accounts — population. The two biggest groups in the city are Hispanics and blacks. 14-percent of blacks and 11-percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are unbanked, according to the Federal Reserve.
Some saw mandating direct deposit for all employees as long overdue.
“We shouldn’t even give them an option to be honest,” said councilman Flavio Rivera, chairman of the finance committee. “Our legal obligation is to pay them. It doesn’t say how.”
Municipal officials said the state recommended the city mandate direct deposit. The measure states requiring direct deposit for all employees will “advance the current public health goal of ‘social distancing.’”
Councilman Al Abdelaziz agreed with Rivera. “The city of Paterson needs to get with the times,” he said. “This is something that should have happened in 2013.”
The measure will save time, money, and reduce incidents of stolen or lost checks, according to municipal documents. No specific savings amount is listed in the measure.
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