Another US Digital Dollar and Wallet Proposed as Stimulus During Pandemic 101
Source: Adobe/Alexey Novikov

In the midst of rising business shutdowns and unemployment rates in the U.S., which may lead to a nationwide, as well as a global recession, House Democrats have put a draft stimulus on the table – and it includes the creation of a “digital dollar” and a “digital dollar wallet” to be distributed to all qualified U.S. residents.

As a response to the growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and its massive economic impact, the U.S. Democratic party shared two lengthy draft bills titled the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act” and the “Financial Protections and Assistance for America’s Consumers, States, Businesses, and Vulnerable Populations Act,” both dated March 22, 2020. The latter was introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a well-known oponent of Facebook‘s Libra. Both documents have the term “digital dollar” included, defined in a similar manner.

This new virtual USD would be used for providing stimulus payments and it seems that no part of the U.S. government is planning to create a cryptocurrency or a crypto wallet to hold it in. As to what the Democrats define by the phrase “digital dollar” is:

  • a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal reserve bank; or
  • an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution (as determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System).

Meanwhile, by “digital dollar wallet” they mean “a digital wallet or account, maintained by a Federal reserve bank on behalf of any person, that represents holdings in an electronic device or service that is used to store digital dollars that may be tied to a digital or physical identity.”

There’s also a proposal to make a “pass-through digital dollar wallet,” which is a digital wallet also maintained by a member bank of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a user, where “such qualified individual” is entitled to a proportional share of a pooled reserve balance maintained by that member bank at any Federal reserve bank.

These wallets would not be subject to any account fees and minimum or maximum balances, but would pay interest; they can’t be closed by the bank due to profitability considerations; banks would provide “reasonable protection” against losses due to fraud or security breaches, etc. Furthermore, the member banks would be required to establish and maintain a separate legal entity to exclusively hold all assets and maintain “all liabilities associated with pass-through digital dollar wallets.”

As for who these “qualified individuals” are that would make use of the new dollar and wallets, the draft says it’s all but “any nonresident alien individual” – U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as businesses based in the U.S. These qualified individuals would then get monthly emergency payments in the digital dollar, made by the Secretary of Treasury, acting through the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. The amounts would be:

  • USD 2,000 for those 18 years of age or above;
  • USD 1,000 for those under 18;
  • available for withdrawal the same day it’s deposited.

“Member banks with total consolidated assets in excess of [USD] 10,000,000,000 shall promptly offer individuals the ability to apply, through online or telephonic means, for a pass-through digital dollar wallets,” the draft proposes.

As to when all those who qualify may get their digital wallet if the bill passes, the draft bill says “[n]ot later than January 1, 2021.”

However, it’s important to note that these are drafts and that the entire digital dollar paragraph may be edited out in the final version of the bill.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, proposed giving to every person in America a U.S. Debit Card pre-loaded with USD 2,000 and recharged with USD 1,000 monthly until one year after the end of the Coronavirus crisis.

Both those within and outside the community are reacting to this proposal. Many seem that not many have faith in it, while others find it could bring major changes into the world as we know it.

Hart Lambur, co-founder of decentralized financial contracts platform UMA, argues that, if the bill some call “the Pelosi bill” after the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, is seriously thinking about creating a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in order to deliver direct stimulus to Americans, it “would be a game-changer.” But as time constraints are worrisome, he adds, “But there’s no way this can happen on the timeline needed, unless they use Libra… right? (That’s a joke, mostly).”

Daniel Aranda from Ripple’s developer initiative Xpring commented that the bill makes no mention of a decentralized ledger. Aranda finds that there’s no benefit to it as the issuer is centralized, but also that “Dollars, in this light, are already “digital”.

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