Western Union announced Thursday that it will significantly expand its U.S. pilot program for money transfers to Cuba, opening retail outlets in 50 states and enabling digital services through its website and mobile app.
The company, one of the world’s leading providers of such services, closed its doors to communist rule in early January, almost three years after the Trump administration introduced the sanctions that triggered the outage. First to resume limited transfers to the island.
The first pilot program was based in the Greater Miami area, home to the country’s largest Cuban-American population.
The new program now includes 4,400 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico, offering multiple digital platforms for those looking to send money to the island, according to a company statement.
Remittances have long been an important source of income for Cuban families, but amid a severe economic crisis stemming from tightening US sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and a sluggish tourism industry struggling to recover, remittances have become increasingly scarce. The need is even more acute.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump has banned U.S. companies from facilitating remittances to Cuba through military-affiliated companies identified on the U.S. “Cuba Restricted List.”
The Biden administration has taken some small steps to lift some of the Trump-era sanctions against Cuba, but last May it announced that it would use electronic payment processing to avoid funds flowing directly to Cuba’s communist regime. He said he could resume remittances if he used a “merchant”.
Western Union announced Thursday that it has struck a deal with Orbit SA, a Cuba-based company authorized by Cuba’s central bank to process transactions.