If you're looking to rent out a park pavilion in the Town of Miami Lakes for a birthday party but you're short on cash in your bank account, the town says it's no problem— you can pony up in Bitcoin.
Miami Lakes, a municipality located west of Opa-locka Airport with a population of about 31,000, is looking to get a jump on the rest of Miami-Dade County on the cryptocurrency frontier. While other municipal governments in Greater Miami slow-walk the transition to digital currencies, Miami Lakes is already accepting payments for town services in Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum through its merchant service partner, PayPal.
"When you pay for a permit, rental, license, you can pay with cryptocurrency," Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid confirms to New Times. "We can let businesses know: If you don’t have a check or a credit card, you can use your crypto."
At the end of March, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing U.S. customers to pay vendors in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Now, customers who hold cryptocurrency in their digital wallet can pay a merchant for goods and services in that currency. At checkout, PayPal will conduct a separate transaction to convert the currency into U.S. dollars before passing along those dollars to the merchant — even if said merchant is the Town of Miami Lakes. That way, the merchant gets paid in dollars and doesn't have to hold any crypto, and people who would rather use cryptocurrency over dollars can do so.
Cid says accepting cryptocurrency in this manner — i.e., wherein PayPal converts it into U.S. dollars — made the most sense for his town. Miami Lakes' government was looking for ways to innovate and get ahead of the game on crypto without subjecting taxpayers to risk if the town actually held reserves in digital currency, he explains. Currencies like Bitcoin and the recently popular Dogecoin are volatile; citing that risk, Cid says his finance department isn't prepared to hold cryptocurrency at this time.
"We understood very clearly that it's not our money. We need to be risk-averse and take care of the people’s money. This was probably the most commonsense step," says the mayor.
While this relatively small town is already taking steps to integrate cryptocurrency into government business, albeit in a roundabout way, other parts of Greater Miami are still catching up.
Last month, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins wrote a resolution to create a cryptocurrency task force to study the feasibility of accepting digital currency for county tax and fee payments. That resolution was passed by the full county commission on May 4, and the task force is being staffed. Once the task force meets, it will have 180 days to give a report to commissioners.
In the City of Miami, where Mayor Francis Suarez has been the face of a concerted push to turn Miami into a tech hub, commissioners passed a resolution in February directing the city to examine the feasibility of paying employees with Bitcoin, and to find a vendor to facilitate the transactions.
Suarez, who holds no vote on the city commission, wanted to integrate Bitcoin right away, but commissioners raised several concerns about cryptocurrency and eventually voted to take the slower approach. The feasibility study is ongoing.
Mayor Cid says he wanted Miami Lakes to be a pioneer in the county and that he hopes the new service will encourage residents to educate themselves about cryptocurrency and other emerging technologies. The town already has a page on its website explaining the basics of cryptocurrency and blockchain, the technology that serves as the basis for cryptocurrency transactions.
According to Miami Lakes Chief Financial Officer Ismael Diaz, the town has no way of knowing how many people are making transactions using cryptocurrency. Diaz says PayPal may be working on an update to allow merchants to see who is paying with cryptocurrency.
Cid says the town will keep tabs on the new system with an eye toward the possibility of holding actual cryptocurrency reserves in the future.
"This is gonna open doors in the future or close them," says the mayor. "If this works, whatever works best for our residents and staff, we’re gonna look at it."
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