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Analysis: Low-Income Oregonians Paying a Lot to Cash Checks

February 8, 2007

Thousands of Oregonians apparently can't make it to payday without getting expensive advances on their checks through check-cashing "payday loan" companies. New research from the Oregon Center for Public Policy shows one of every eight low-income adults in the state pays unregulated fees to cash their checks every month.

Central Oregonians happen to use these check-cashing services almost twice as often as Oregonians statewide. Policy analyst and report author Michael Leachman says the figures demonstrate both the size and impact of the payday loan industry, and suggests lawmakers should be regulating them more closely.

"These outfits are charging upwards of six to ten percent to cash checks. So, for a $1,000 payroll check, they get as much as $100 in fees."

Who uses these pricey storefront loan companies? Leachman says some people turn to them because they assume they're not eligible for checking accounts, due to credit problems or other issues. The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill this session that would, for the first time, regulate and license check-cashing companies and set reasonable
limits on the fees they charge. Leachman says a few have reasonable rates, but that's not a sufficient guarantee.

"The problem is that the rates are not capped, at all, so some check-cashers are charging unreasonable, irresponsible fees that really do amount to preying on Oregonians."

The report shows that most of the 100,000 Oregonians who make salaries of less than $30,000 are the most likely to pay regular fees to check cashing companies. Learn more about the research online, at www.ocpp.org.

Dondrea Warner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - OR