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Family farmers call for tougher CAFO regulations in Farm Bill; The Midwest and Northeast brace for record high temperature in heatwave; Financial-justice advocates criticize crypto regulation bill; Ohio advocates: New rules strengthen protections for sexual-assault victims.

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The RNC kicks off its election integrity effort, Democrats sound a warning bell about conservatives' Project 2025, and Republicans suggest funding cuts to jurisdictions with legal cases against Trump.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Not-so-easy money: Report details hidden fees in cash app loans

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Tuesday, April 23, 2024   

Wisconsin lawmakers recently debated reforms for payday loans. Efforts to protect consumers come amid new research about financial pain associated with cash advances offered through smartphone apps. The Center for Responsible Lending is out with findings that detail how "earned wage advances" from digital platforms come with extra costs disguised as things like tips. Traditional payday lenders are often criticized for charging excessive interest rates on loans that are usually around $500.

Lucia Constantine, a researcher with the Center for Responsible Lending, said customers are usually seeking smaller amounts from the apps, but she warns they can be just as costly.

"They are trapping consumers in a cycle of borrowing that is similar to that of a payday loan, " she said.

The report said after using these financial products, customers are seeing overdrafts on their checking accounts increase by 56% on average. Industry leaders deny they're barraging consumers with hidden fees, stressing that features such as suggested tips are optional. More broadly, a bipartisan payday loan reform bill in the Wisconsin Legislature failed to advance this month.

Constantine said like longstanding payday lenders, these cash advance apps can be hard to regulate. Meanwhile, she urged those in a bind to explore other options.

"[They should] try talking to their friends and family as a first source. The other option which I would recommend is reaching out to their credit union or banking institution to see if they can get some sort of small-dollar loan," she said.

She noted places such as credit unions typically provide more transparency on loan costs. According to the report, three-quarters of consumers took out at least one advance on the same day or day after a re-payment was posted.


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