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How ‘earned wage access’ could revolutionize the way we receive paychecks

Instead of using the outdated, bimonthly pay cycle, workers could be paid for the work they do each day.

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Paychecks are stacked on a table at Junior’s Restaurant for distribution to employees, Thursday, March 19, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Earned wage access allows workers to receive compensation as they work, not on a bimonthly or monthly wage cycle.

Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 63%, report living paycheck to paycheck.

Here in Utah, many workers are facing the difficult reality of not being able to weather an unexpectedly high energy bill in the winter months, or pay for holiday financial obligations, or support a family member who has lost hours — possibly even a job — during the pandemic.

I know this anxiety all too well.

I was once one of these workers living paycheck to paycheck, all while caring for a new baby who had increased medical needs as an infant. My firstborn child had to stay at the hospital for an extended three months. My daughter was born early due to severe preeclampsia and we had thousands of dollars in medical bills. During this difficult period, I accumulated more bills and reentered the workforce after my longer-than-expected maternity leave with daunting financial obligations.

If I had to wait for my twice-monthly paycheck for the hours I had already worked, my bills would have been overdue and I would have faced late fees, propelling me into a vicious cycle of debt.

Thankfully, I became aware of a company called Earnin, which offers a financial tool called Cash Out used by over 2 million Americans, in all 50 states. The financial app allows for workers to get paid for work they’ve already completed earlier in the pay cycle, rather than waiting for once- or twice-monthly paychecks. This simple concept is called “earned wage access” and allows workers to get paid the same day they worked.

American workers have been paid the same way for more than two centuries. But how — and when — they pay bills has changed dramatically. For workers living within their means and trying to meet their financial obligations, their bills don’t wait on their paycheck. This reality has historically forced many workers to turn to predatory loans or face high overdraft fees.

This isn’t right. And it makes no sense.

Earned wage access solves this problem by empowering workers — freeing them from their employers’ payment cycles. This tool provides them access to money they’ve already earned without waiting two to four weeks for their paycheck.

Workers get access to the pay they have already earned that month with no loans — that means no fees, no interest and no APRs. They get access to their earnings with no recourse, which means no debt collectors, no fines and no reporting to credit companies.

In Utah, over 8,000 workers in a cross section of industries including transportation, retail, foodservice, health care, legal, state and local government, the U.S. military and much more, are using the Earnin app to access the money they’ve earned in real time.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, along with the financial anxiety that it has produced for many, I hope more workers in our state and beyond look into earned wage access, which helped me to pay my bills on time, with the money I had already earned.

Gabriela Cazier is a legal secretary for the Salt Lake District Attorney’s office and mother of two.