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PA Payday Lending: Short-Term Loans, Long-Term Issues

May 16, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The pluses and minuses of payday lending are playing out in Harrisburg.

The state House Consumer Affairs Committee has advanced legislation that would legalize what some call "predatory" payday lending. Supporters say allowing lenders to charge annual interest rates as high as 369 percent for a two-week loan will help create jobs. However, a new report from the Keystone Research Center shows otherwise, says labor economist Dr. Mark Price.

"Payday lending, when you have an expansion of it, it certainly creates some jobs on the side of the payday lending operation. But it also destroys other jobs in the economy, because consumers are paying these excessive fees, which end up crowding out other spending in the local community."

While payday loans are born from the desperation of people needing money between paychecks, Price says those who don't qualify for them are better off in the long term than those who do.

"There are consumers that payday lenders actually do turn down and are unwilling to make them a short-term, $300 loan. If they don't get a loan, they're less likely to file for bankruptcy than people that the lenders actually do choose to make a loan to."

Lender fees such as those being considered by state lawmakers are what can turn a relatively small loan into an insurmountable mountain of debt, Price says.

"They end up having to take out another loan, and another loan and another loan - and each time, they're racking up these enormous fees, putting those households in worse shape financially."

Payday lending hits rural sections of the state hardest, Price says, areas that often have limited economic opportunities for residents to repay their debts. He notes that a higher concentration of these lenders is typical in rural communities, which he calls "a perfect landscape" for them.

The report is online at keystoneresearch.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA