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County may get third-party cryptocurrency payments

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Written by on April 12, 2022


The Miami-Dade Cryptocurrency Task Force, created in April last year to explore the feasibility of the county accepting cryptocurrencies, delivered its report and is recommending allowing indirect acceptance of payment to the county in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies through a licensed third-party payment processor.

Existing regulations prohibit the county from directly accepting cryptocurrency as payment. As a result, if the county wants to make the option available of paying taxes, fees and fines, the recommendation is to “procure a currency payment processor that could accept the virtual currency on behalf of the county and provide the county with the fair market value of the cryptocurrency in legal tender.”

The report also recommends:

■Provide educational opportunities for all county residents to learn about blockchain technology and digital assets, including their opportunities and risks.

■Provide county employees with the option of accepting up to a certain percentage of their compensation in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

■Establish a permanent advisory board to assist the county commission with respect to any county issues associated with blockchain technology.

“The county is so enthusiastic about cryptocurrency, not only the politicians and the people that make up the bureaucratic system of the county but county constituents,” said Samir Patel, a task force member and innovation and technology attorney in Holland & Knight’s Miami office.

“We had literally hundreds of county constituents that are in the blockchain space come and present their ideas, their small businesses, their volunteer education programs, and that has been the most rewarding thing about being a part of the task force,” he said.

The county may pay employee wages only in US legal tender under the existing regulations. But if they want to provide that option, they would also need to procure a virtual currency processor that would convert the county’s legal tender to virtual currency and deliver that to the employee, the report says.

To get to their recommendations, the task force met 16 times with county employees, community members, and vendors to learn about the interest and potential use of the cryptocurrencies.

The legislation was first sponsored by Commissioner Daniella Cohen Higgins. “I created the Cryptocurrency Task Force to explore the feasibility of Miami-Dade County adopting cryptocurrency and blockchain technology,” she said in a written statement to Miami Today.

“I am thankful for the dedication and hard work of the task force members in putting together their report. I am also thankful of their shared priority of education; while there are potential rewards, there are also risks. I want our residents engaged but more so informed,” she wrote.

The group had guiding principles that oriented them to prepare the 15-page report, including the need for public educational opportunities, financial inclusion, transparency, and community support, the document says.

“The Task Force strongly believes that blockchain and cryptocurrency educational opportunities for the residents of the county would be beneficial to promoting financial freedom and the growth of personal wealth,” the 11-member task force wrote, acknowledging that the volatility of many digital assets presents certain risks that must be understood.

To fully understand the interest in the community, the group surveyed county employees and found that of those who responded, 69% said they have tried to learn about bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, 39% have already used or invested in cryptocurrencies, 29% said they were “not knowledgeable at all” about the technology, and 58% said they were slightly knowledgeable” or “moderately knowledgeable.”

Additionally, 83% indicated they would like “to learn more about cryptocurrency,” opening the floodgates for educational initiatives.

“Educating Miami-Dade County constituents is of the utmost importance and a quintessential ingredient in order to make cryptocurrency flourish within the county,” Mr. Patel said.

Thus, the group recommended that the commission select one or multiple vendors that would provide professional educational platforms, educational symposiums (virtual and in-person), printed educational materials, onboarding and education for all county employees using services, education on the benefits and risks of cryptocurrency, and targeted outreach programs focusing on traditionally underserved communities.

“My goal remains the same, creating economic opportunity through welcoming this industry while simultaneously protecting our residents,” Commissioner Cohen Higgins told Miami Today. “This report reflects a lot of work performed, but there is so much more to do.”

The task force is requesting 180 additional days to explore additional areas and assist with the procurement process.

The report describes additional policy initiatives in which blockchain technology can be used as well, such as in casting votes in elections, for maintaining real estate title records, for permits and licenses, and for monitoring environmental standards.

Digital autonomous organizations could be used for organizing local communities to fund local projects, the report said, and the technology could be used for the county to create or participate in a “metaverse” environment.

Task force members wrote they wanted to keep on exploring the idea of a county-sponsored conference focused on blockchain “that would be available at no or low cost to residents, study the permissibility and potential to provide financial literacy education to county residents in connection with digital assets,” and study approaches for the county to mitigate these potential drawbacks and “ensure that the benefits of innovation flow back to the community at large.”

After seeing what the task force has done and who has come to speak to members, Mr. Patel said commissioners should consider blockchain and cryptocurrency to be a pillar of their campaigns moving forward.

“It’s very much something that is weaving its way into the fabric of the county, and it can’t be ignored anymore,” he said.

In Miami-Dade County, at least 27 businesses accept cryptocurrencies, all listed on the website www.cryptoacptd.com. They include hotels, restaurants, jewelers, and a nightclub. Last time Miami Today checked in December 2021 there were 20.

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