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Protections on Horizon for Families Facing Financial Struggles

PHOTO: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering new federal rules on payday loans, raising the hopes of poverty-fighting and faith-based groups who have been unable to convince state lawmakers to rein in the short-term loan industry. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering new federal rules on payday loans, raising the hopes of poverty-fighting and faith-based groups who have been unable to convince state lawmakers to rein in the short-term loan industry. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
April 29, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - More than 6,000 borrowers in the state each took out 30 or more loans last year, according to the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending. Critics of the short-term loans, known commonly as payday loans, say they are debt traps.

The critics are banking on proposed federal regulations to help protect families who are in a financial bind. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering stronger rules on payday, car-title and installment loans.

Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said it would be a "big step in the right direction ... because it definitely raises fair-lending practices and makes sure that, if a payday lender is going to loan to a person, that they've made some effort to determine if this is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back for this individual."

While the federal regulator is contemplating whether to require lenders to make sure borrowers have the means to repay a loan, the new rules would not outlaw high-interest, short-term loans. A coalition of faith-based and poverty-fighting organizations repeatedly has tried to convince the Kentucky General Assembly to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent, but state lawmakers have refused.

As pastor of Great Crossing Baptist Church in Georgetown, the Rev. Rick Hardison said, he regularly meets people who are short on rent, who can't pay their electric bill or whose pantry is empty. He said he has yet to find someone who says the payday loans have helped them.

"Instead, it's people who take these loans out who, they regret it, They wish they hadn't done it," he said. "I found that payday loans are a trap."

However, the Kentucky Deferred Deposit Association, an advocate for the industry, says it's a myth that payday lenders prey on the disadvantaged. The trade group maintains that regulating payday lenders would hurt consumers.

The CFPB also is considering giving lenders the option to establish an outer limit on a consumer's length of indebtedness. While that's not a cap on interest rates, Hall said, "it isn't a bad approach because it does limit that cycle of debt. And, it does create a point, sooner rather than later, where that cycle has to be broken because that's where payday lending really wreaks its most havoc."

Nationwide, the payday loan industry is estimated to be a $46 billion enterprise.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY