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On World AIDS Day, New Mexico activists say more money is needed for prevention; ND farmers still navigate corporate land-ownership policy maze; Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Israel to protect civilians amid Gaza truce talks, New York Rep. George Santos defends himself as his expected expulsion looms and CDC director warns about respiratory illness as flu season begins.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

New Payday-Lending Rule Could be Helpful in Maine

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017   

AUGUSTA, Maine - Consumer-rights groups are celebrating this month's decision by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stop payday-lending debt traps, although they say there's more work to be done.

The new rules require payday lenders to start verifying a borrower's ability to repay a loan before rolling it over into a new loan. Maine already has some consumer protections in place, but Jody Harris, associate director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, said the payday-loan industry is notorious for finding ways around them.

"In Maine, many of them operate online, under the radar. They ignore our laws; they claim the laws don't apply to them, because they're out of state," she said. "So, I think what this rule will do is, it will help Maine enforce its existing, really strong consumer protections."

In states that put caps on payday loans, Harris said, the interest rate can run as high as 36 percent, but in Maine it is 30 percent. Supporters of payday lending argue that this type of short-term loan offers credit and flexibility to people in financial distress.

Maine also requires that payday lenders be licensed and post a surety bond, but Harris said the industry makes constant efforts to find loopholes it can squeeze through.

"Last year, they tried to pass a bill that would authorize high-interest, long-term loans," she said, "and it would have also allowed them to charge a new origination fee, and a new monthly maintenance fee, which Maine doesn't allow."

That legislation was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, in Congress, conservatives are expected to try to repeal the new rule before it even goes into effect in July 2019. Next year, President Trump will get the chance to nominate a new head of the CFPB. Its current director, Richard Cordray, is a holdover from the Obama administration.

Information on the rule is online at consumerfinance.gov. Information on the bill in the Maine Legislature, SP 385, is at mainelegislature.org.


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