OMV no-cash policy fuels frustrations; inside theft 'still ongoing'

OMV no-cash policy fuels frustrations; inside theft 'still ongoing'

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Frustrations are boiling over at the Office of Motor Vehicles as workers turn away customers trying to pay with cash.

"It's just an inconvenience," driver Jonnique Robertson said. "Cash is a universal form of payment, and it should be taken everywhere."

"That's absolutely ridiculous because this is a government facility, and it's a legal form of tender. If they can't accept it, who can?" driver Gordon Peck said.

Starting this month, OMVs across Louisiana stopped accepting cash. Workers now only take credit or debit cards, personal check, cashier check or money order, but those payments come with extra fees. Check transactions cost an extra $1. Debit and credit card payments include an additional $1 plus 1.25 percent of the transaction amount.

"I shouldn't have to pay more because they no longer want to accept the cash," driver Dana Vautour argued.

"My desire was not to have to do this. That was my desire," newly appointed OMV Commissioner Karen St. Germaine said.

She argues she had no other alternative but to implement the new policy. Gov. John Bel Edwards asked all state agency heads to cut their budgets in order find money to balance the state's $315 million deficit.

"In order for us to run on the same budget that we had last year, we had to do as much as we could to tighten our own belts," St. Germaine said.

The no-cash policy will save the OMV $300,000-$350,000 a year by cutting cost for transport and handling the money. St. Germaine also admits the new policy will stop employees from stealing the cash, which she says is still a big problem even after two OMV workers were arrested for taking money last year.

"When you have that cash floating around, it is a bad temptation to someone with a problem, and this 40-year-old system is so old it is easy for them to find a loophole to void something to keep the cash," the commissioner said. "It's happened, they've been prosecuted in the last three or four years, and I'm positive it's still ongoing."

Around 30-40 percent of customers used cash before the new policy was put into place. 
St. Germaine advises people check the OMV's website to see how much their next transaction will cost.

But while the change inconveniences some, other drivers do not mind a no-cash policy.

"If I knew somebody needed cash, I would have to make a purpose trip to the bank to get cash. Well with this I was like good. I don't have to go and get cash. I'm fine with that," driver Sharyol Cummings said.

Commissioner St. Germaine says the OMV is not making any extra money off the fees. That money goes to the vendor.

She said the money the agency saves will not go to the department to hire new employees. Instead, the savings will go to the state's general fund to help the deficit.

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