Florida governor’s budget proposal wants to let residents pay fees in crypto

The new budget proposal also involves a blockchain pilot for vehicle registrations.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has officially proposed the state government to allow businesses to pay state fees with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC).

The Republican governor announced the idea as part of his 2022–2023 budget proposal, released on Dec. 9.

According to the official budget highlights, DeSantis proposed to provide $200,000 to the Department of Financial Services to offer Florida corporations the ability to “pay state fees via cryptocurrency directly to the Department of State.”

“Florida encourages cryptocurrency as a means of commerce and furthering Florida’s attractiveness to businesses and economic growth,” the document reads.

DeSantis additionally proposed allocating another $500,000 to explore the potential of blockchain technology to maintain motor vehicle records as well as authenticate Medicaid transactions and detect potential fraud.

The overall $700,000 proposal is dedicated to enable a crypto-friendly Florida, the budget proposal reads.

Florida has been steadily emerging as a major cryptocurrency-friendly jurisdiction in the United States as one of its major cities, Miami, is being actively promoted as the “world’s Bitcoin and crypto capital.”

Related: ​​Navigating CityCoins: Miami citizens to earn Bitcoin despite the city not holding crypto

Last month, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced that he aimed to be the first U.S. lawmaker to accept part of his paycheck in Bitcoin. The official reportedly owns both BTC and Ether (ETH).

In September, Miami’s city commissioners voted to accept funds generated by the new MiamiCoin cryptocurrency, which was launched by the smart contracts protocol CityCoins in August. Having generated more than $21 million in yields as of mid-November, MiamiCoin will be available to all Miami residents in the form of a Bitcoin dividend, according to the city mayor.

Tribal Credit taps Bitso and Stellar to enable cross-border B2B payments

The partnership between Tribal Credit, Bitso and Stellar Development Foundation will rely on crypto to streamline B2B transactions in Latin America.

Enterprise payment platform Tribal Credit has partnered with Latin American crypto exchange Bitso and the Stellar Development Foundation to create a new cross-border payment service for businesses, opening the door to broader use cases for blockchain technology in the region.

The new service, which is geared towards small- and medium-sized enterprises, enables companies in Mexico to pay for goods and services in their native peso currency and have their counterparts in the United States receive the payments in dollars. The service will rely on the Stellar blockchain, a decentralized open-source payment network specializing in cross-currency transactions.

Tribal Credit’s cross-border payment system will be facilitated by Bitso, a multi-billion-dollar crypto exchange that will enable merchants to convert pesos to Stellar’s USDC stablecoin. Bitso was a key partner in the rollout of El Salvador’s state-issued Bitcoin (BTC) wallet Chivo. 

The Stellar Development Foundation, or SDF, is a non-profit organization supporting the growth and adoption of the Stellar blockchain. Stellar’s native XLM cryptocurrency has been a mainstay in the digital asset market over the past four years and currently ranks 26th by total market capitalization. (Interestingly, two members of SDF were inducted into the Cointelegraph Top 100 for 2021.)

When asked about why Tribal Credit selected Stellar for its cross-border payment service, chief research scientist Ehab Zaghloul told Cointelegraph that the protocol aligns with Tribal’s mission to “promote financial inclusion and democratize access to financial services.” Stellar is also “fast and charges nearly nothing for transactions, making it far more affordable and efficient than its competitors,” he said in a written statement. 

Fast and efficient cross-border payments are one of the most promising use cases of blockchain technology in an age where traditional wire transfers remain cumbersome, expensive and slow. As Cointelegraph reported, credit card giant Visa acquired cross-border payment fintech Currencycloud in July for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is intended to help Visa improve its foreign exchange business.

Related: B2B firms want cross-border payments but skeptical of crypto: Survey

Tribal Credit has identified Latin America as one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for cross-border transactions involving businesses. Led by Mexico, the region represents a $175 billion market opportunity that could be ripe for disruption by companies willing to experiment with blockchain technology. 

“Economic conditions in Latin America certainly do make the region receptive to crypto payment services,” Tribal Credit’s chief strategy officer Mohamed Elkasstawi told Cointelegraph in a written statement. “Crypto and stablecoins serve as a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation not just in Latin America, but in many other countries as well.” Elkasstawi also credited widespread adoption of smartphones for crypto’s growing mainstream appeal in the region:

“It’s also worth considering that everyone with a smartphone can transact in crypto, so in a region where not everyone lives a reasonable distance from traditional financial institutions, cryptocurrencies provide a useful supplementary financial service for many individuals across Latin America.” 

Wallet provider Ledger launches crypto debit card

The new crypto debit card supports several leading digital assets, including Bitcoin, Ether, XRP, Litecoin and USD Coin.

Cryptocurrency wallet and infrastructure provider Ledger has debuted a new debit card that enables users to buy goods and services with their digital assets, potentially opening the door to wider adoption of crypto payment services. 

The Crypto Life card, also known as “CL,” was introduced at Ledger’s biannual Op3n conference on Thursday. The debit card is linked to Ledger Live, a desktop and mobile application that enables Ledger users to buy, swap and stake cryptocurrencies. The CL card supports several cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH) and stablecoins USD Coin (USDC) and Tether (USDT).

Cardholders have the option of instantly converting their crypto into fiat for the purpose of spending as well as obtaining a line of credit using their digital assets as collateral. The latter option gives cardholders the ability to use their debit card without having to sell their crypto. Users can also deposit their paychecks and select which percentage of their income they want to convert into BTC and ETH.

The CL card is set for launch in the first quarter of 2022 for users in the United Kingdom, France and Germany followed by a second-quarter rollout in the United States.

Ledger’s foray into the debit card market follows a strategic pivot into the decentralized finance, or DeFi, market. The company, which is known for its Ledger Nano S and Nano X hardware wallets, concluded a $380 million private financing round in June of this year, bringing its total valuation to $1.5 billion.

Related: Building a path to sustainable finance and blockchain adoption starts with payments

Payments are a highly touted but underutilized use case of the crypto economy. However, that appears to be slowly changing now that major players such as Mastercard have entered the crypto payments landscape. Meanwhile, crypto payments provider BitPay recently entered into a partnership with browser and wallet extension MetaMask to provide a payment gateway to tens of millions of new users.

Australia to Regulate Crypto Sector as Part of Payments Reform

Australia to Regulate Crypto Sector as Part of Payments Reform

The government of Australia is preparing to comprehensively regulate the activities of cryptocurrency exchanges and custodians. The push is part of a major overhaul, aimed at preserving the country’s sovereignty over its payments system, which will also affect providers like Apple and Google.

Payment Laws in Australia to Cover Crypto Business and Big Tech

Authorities in Australia are gearing up to update the nation’s legislation governing payments in the largest reform of the industry in over two decades. The changes will expand the regulatory framework to encompass new payment processors in the online space including those dealing with cryptocurrencies.

Australia to Regulate Crypto Sector as Part of Payments Reform

In 2022, the government will begin consultations on the establishment of a licensing framework for crypto exchanges and the regulation of platforms holding digital assets on behalf of clients, Reuters reported. Canberra also wants to explore the feasibility of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) issued by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

With a daily number now reaching 55 million, non-cash payments, including crypto transactions, have spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic as many Australians have turned to online options. Close to half of them are using their phones to make payments while in 2021 those transacting in crypto have increased by 63% over the previous year.

Australia’s plan to broaden its payment regulations also aims to cover online transaction processors such as Apple and Google as well as buy-now-pay-later providers like Afterpay. The goal is to put an end to their unsupervised operations in the country. Speaking on the need for the amendments, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned:

If we do not reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley that determines the future of our payment system. Australia must retain its sovereignty over our payment system.

Google and Apple have so far refrained from commenting on the announcement but a spokesperson for Afterpay has been quoted as stating that the company supports “any approach that takes into account consumer benefits from the innovation and competition Afterpay has brought to the market.” The platform has agreed to a buyout from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payments firm Square, Reuters noted.

Australia’s move comes at a time when a number of other major economies are taking steps to determine their regulatory policies regarding financial innovations, including cryptocurrencies. Unlike China and India, for example, Australia is preparing to take a more inclusive approach similar to that of the United States, the report suggests.

Do you think the Australian government will adopt crypto-friendly regulations? Share your expectations in the comments section below.

French fintech startup Lydia raises $100 million in Series C funding round

The Series C funding round was led by existing investors Tencent and Accel.

French crypto-friendly fintech startup Lydia has raised $100 million in a Series C funding round, per a report in TechCrunch. 

The latest capital raise reportedly helped Lydia attain unicorn status with a valuation of over $1 billion. 

The $100-million fundraise comes nearly a year after its Series B funding round of $86 million in December 2020.

The round was led by investors Tencent and Accel and saw participation from Dragoneer and Echo Street. The fintech startup aims to use the fresh capital to expand its footprint in Europe. The firm hopes to have onboarded 10 million Europeans by 2025.

Lydia did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

The app started as a peer-to-peer mobile payments app and later expanded to include cashback and personal loans. The startup recently launched its stock and crypto trading services in association with Australian crypto exchange Bitpanda. The fintech app is similar to Cash App or Venmo in terms of functionality and currently boasts 5.5 million users.

Related: PayPal to offer crypto payments for merchants, limited trading on Venmo.

The popularity of crypto payments in recent years has made fintech and mobile trading apps the biggest winners. Several mobile payment giants and fintech trading apps, such as PayPal, Robinhood and Venmo, have opened the gates for crypto payments for millions of users and merchants alike.

Mainstream mobile payment service providers have already joined the crypto league, and now even local payment processors are looking to bank on crypto’s popularity. Indian mobile payment processor Paytm had recently expressed interest in crypto payments following clarity on regulations from the government.