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NIC Offers Cash Payment Option for Governments Going Digital

The pandemic has forced state and local governments across the U.S. to close their offices and move services online. But there are still people who need to pay with cash — so the gov tech vendor is offering a solution.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing offices across the world, government agencies have shifted in-person services online. It’s been a long time coming, and will likely transform the way they do business permanently.

But what if you need to pay for something in cash? Government, as is often said, can’t just serve the most convenient of its constituents — it must serve them all. That includes people who don’t have bank accounts, credit cards or debit cards.

So NIC, which has built itself into a successful company helping government offer services online, is now giving its public-sector customers a way to take cash payments even with their offices shut down.

They did it with a partnership with CheckFreePay, a payment option offered by the company Fiserv. CheckFreePay runs more than 30,000 payment centers nationwide, often located inside shopping destinations such as grocery stores.

In short, governments that use NIC can now set up capabilities to take in-person cash payments from bill payers at those CheckFreePay locations.

In Pulaski County, Ark., Bentley Hovis, the deputy chief of the treasurer’s office, said those are inside Walmarts, Krogers and Edwards stores scattered across the area — some 30 locations.

“Obviously because of the COVID situation we don’t have any locations open to the public, so this provided us with a way (to take those payments),” Hovis said.

The “unbanked” population doesn’t just include individuals who need to pay taxes. It can also include businesses that run mainly on cash. Marijuana businesses, for example, often can’t open bank accounts because banks are worried about working with clients whose product is considered illegal under federal law — even in states that have legalized it.

Hovis said the CheckFreePay centers are usually at the customer service desk, where a person might go if they want to wire money. If a person is paying their property tax, bringing a bill or their parcel number will be helpful to streamline the interaction. The centers are also useful for people who want to pay utility bills.

“Not all consumers have the means or desire to pay electronically, and when they have the option of paying in cash and in person, an important community need is satisfied,” said Jose Garcia, senior vice president of government solutions at Fiserv, in a statement. “These consumers also have the ease and convenience of one-stop payment options because they have the ability to pay at well-known retail locations — places where they are already shopping.”

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.