WASHINGTON -- The Amusement and Music Operators Association reports that it has seen an alarming increase in the number of calls received at its West Dundee, IL, office from members complaining that their bank accounts are being closed. And many banks are imposing burdensome requirements on small businesses that deal primarily in cash, AMOA added.
In response, AMOA executive vice-president Lori Schneider and Emily Dunn of Tom's Amusement Co. (Blue Ridge, GA), who heads the association's legislative committee, have traveled to Washington, DC, to visit the offices of key Senate and House members. Schneider and Dunn delivered a strong message: "these bank account closures have reached a crisis level for our members and we need relief now."
"The AMOA headquarters has been recently flooded with calls and emails advising us of accounts being closed, banks requiring an enormous amount of personal information, or banks substantially raising fees in order to maintain accounts," Schneider said. "For those dealing with account closures, it is becoming more and more difficult to find a bank willing to handle their cash."
During a visit with the office of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), AMOA was invited to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 22, to take part in an interview session with members of Congress and their staffs regarding the "horrendous impact the abrupt account closures have had on small legitimate businesses, especially cash-intensive enterprises," Schneider said.
The AMOA executive vice-president said it is unclear whether the recent rash of banking difficulties is related to Operation Choke Point, a Justice Department anti-money laundering initiative that inadvertently affected ATM operators. Schneider told VT that officials in Congress believe that Choke Point is no longer being enforced. She's not sure about that, and intends to find out at next week's meetings. "If it's not Operation Choke Point, what is it?" Schneider will ask. "Is it overregulation of small business? Is it banks not wanting to put forth the resources to deal with our members' cash-intensive businesses?" These are the questions AMOA would liked answered.
"We thank those members who have reached out to us previously and provided information, as it armed us with a strong defense during our visits last week," the two AMOA leaders emphasized. They added that copies of correspondence that operators forward to the association are only shared after all identifying details other than city and state have been deleted. "Having the city and state enables us to show congressional offices they have constituents directly impacted by this excessive action," they explained.
As AMOA continues to press for answers and relief, it urges its members to get behind this effort. "Continue to share what you are experiencing, whether it be account closures, increased fees or banking questionnaires," Dunn and Schneider urged. "We've created a portal to make it easy to provide us with information including uploading any documents."
This is available through the member page at AMOA's website. Members also are urged to contact Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 937-2662 to share their experiences.
AMOA also plans to conduct a webinar in early July to provide an update on this campaign and to propose talking points for a grassroots initiative; members will be asked to visit with their elected officials when they are home for the August recess.
Not Just Coin Machines
RONKONKOMA, NY -- Coin machine operators are not the only small-business owners whose frequent cash transactions have led to serious problems.
New York City's PIX-11, an affiliate of Tribune Media's television network, reported on a family-owned convenience store distribution business here that had its bank account seized by the Internal Revenue Service. | SEE STORY
"The IRS apparently mistook these transactions for the behavior of a drug dealer or a terrorist trying to fly below the radar," the PIX report continued; and the Service was able to act without further investigation or discovery.
The owners never were charged with a crime, or even accused of wrongdoing, the story pointed out. "But it cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and over two years of fighting the IRS in court, to finally get the money returned."