Push on Again to Limit Payday Loans in KY

February 9, 2015. Public Service News.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – There is no limit in Kentucky on how much interest payday lenders can charge, but an effort is underway to change that.
PHOTO: Lawmakers in Kentucky are being urged to cap interest rates at 36 percent on payday loans offered at businesses like this one. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.

PHOTO: Lawmakers in Kentucky are being urged to cap interest rates at 36 percent on payday loans offered at businesses like this one. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.

Congregations and religious groups across the state are among those pushing lawmakers to cap payday loans at 36 percent. Jason Hall, executive director with the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, says the loans are a “debt trap.”

“It is a trap where people are forced to roll over one loan after another and it drains them of what resources they have.”

A bill filed in the Kentucky Senate (SB 32) proposes to cap interest and fees at the same level Congress has capped loans to military families.

The 36 percent cap is also where Kentucky law sets the ceiling for other types of small loans.

In Louisville, a group of congregations has banded together to push for the cap. The coalition calls itself CLOUT, short for Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together. Jimmy Mills, vice president of CLOUT, attends Mosaic Methodist Church and says the lending rates boggle the mind.

“It’s just outrageous, it’s usury, it is overcharging,” Mills says. “It’s just taking too much money out of people who have the least amount of money.”

But the Kentucky Deferred Deposit Association, an advocate for the industry, says it’s a myth payday lenders prey on the disadvantaged. On it’s website, the association claims “most payday advance customers are working adults from the middle class.”

The trade group says regulating payday lenders would hurt consumers. Mills doesn’t buy that.

“They won’t do anything unless they are forced to,” he says. “Because they are making too much money the way it is.”

Mills says he’s for the cap on interest rates, in part, because he’s had a personal experience. He says he “bailed out” a family member who turned to payday loans because she was “too embarrassed to ask anybody for help.”

Louisville becomes a “Ban the Box” city

Louisville, KY — At CLOUT’s 2013 Nehemiah Action Assembly, several members of the Louisville Metro Council committed to sponsor an ordinance to implement new hiring practices within Louisville Metro government and for businesses who do business with local government in order to remove barriers to employment for persons with a criminal record. Specifically, they committed to make Louisville a “Ban the Box” city, and to extend that policy to vendors and contractors who do business with the city.

After several months of work, including many appearances by CLOUT leaders before Metro Council’s full sessions and committee meetings, in March 2014 the Council voted unanimously (26-0) to pass the “Ban the Box” ordinance. With this vote, Louisville Metro became only the 16th city in the U.S. to pass this policy and to extend it to vendors and contractors.

This policy is not only a compassionate way to help families get back on their feet, but is also a smart move by the city to address crime and the costs of incarceration and the courts. It will help thousands of individuals and families be able to support themselves by getting a job, and it will help the business community by providing a deeper pool of motivated and skilled employees.

CLOUT demands school discipline changes

April 21, 2014. The Courier-Journal.

They prayed, they sang, they held up signs and they made demands — for an end to zero tolerance policies in Jefferson County Public Schools that have resulted in 9,093 suspensions so far this year — 68 percent of them of students who are black.

About 120 members of CLOUT — Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together — crowded into a school board meeting Monday and insisted that the district adopt “restorative practices,” in which misbehaving students are dealt with in school, through conflict resolution, rather than being sent home and onto the streets.

Taylor Johnson, an eighth-grader at the Brown School, testified that it doesn’t do any good to suspend a pair of students who fight — unless their issues are resolved — because they will fight again when they return.

“Zero tolerance is a disservice to all students,” she said.

Brandon Porter, another eighth-grader at Brown, said zero tolerance keeps students from aiding students who are bullied — for fear they also will be suspended — and makes schools more dangerous.

Paula Broyles, a teacher and parent, cited the story of a boy who she said was pulling some change out of his pocket at a school concession stand when his pocketknife came out too.

He had to be expelled, she said, over the protests of teachers, because he had a weapon.

Members of the Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together group held a prayer vigil and demonstrated in front of the Jefferson Co. Public Schools Board of Education on Monday night. April 21, 2014  (Photo: Michael Dossett, Special to The CJ)

And Chris Harmer, the head of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, said that in Boston, which adopted district-wide restorative practices a few years ago, only about 150 students were suspended last year — about 1 percent of the number in Louisville.

But Superintendent Donna Hargens was unswayed.

She said CLOUT, with which she’s met 16 times since her appointment in 2011, insists on imposing “one solution to a multifaceted issue.”

Defending the district’s approach, which includes what it calls “positive, preventive and supportive approaches” — but also making sure students understand the rules — she said, “We are not going to reduce suspensions by ignoring misconduct.”

– See more at: http://opuesta.net/dart1/wordpress/press-room/2014/04/clout-demands-school-discipline-changes/#sthash.iGeUa2JI.dpuf

Ordinance approved to remove convicted felon box on job applications

March 14, 2014. WLKY.COM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —A group that gathered in downtown Louisville wasn’t thinking outside the box, they wanted it banned.

Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, also known as CLOUT, held a rally outside Louisville Metro Hall Thursday evening calling for the removal of the convicted felon box on initial job applications.

CLOUT said it conducted 26 research meetings in the past 18 months and found that 160,000 Louisville residents have a criminal record.

Pastor Larry Sykes said it’s not fair for potential employees who don’t have violent criminal histories.

“There are many citizens who are qualified to do the work, but they don’t often get that chance because employees often use that box as a way to weed out employees,” said Sykes.

After the rally CLOUT members went to the Louisville Metro Council meeting.

Council members approved an ordinance Thursday night that would remove the convicted felon box from job applications.

Metro Council unanimously passes “Ban the Box” bill

March 13, 2014. WDRB.COM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Metro Council members unanimously passed the “Ban the Box” bill after almost two hours of debate Thursday night.

The bill would keep the city’s vendors from asking job seekers on their applications if they have been convicted of a crime.

Earlier Thursday, council members and supporters expected the bill to pass easily.

They saw it as a way to help more people get a job beyond what is often a quick “no” decision by potential employers.

The bill passed unanimously, 26 to 0.

It does not keep a city vendor from “asking” an applicant about a criminal record — or from denying a job because of one.

Groups such as Jobs with Justice and CLOUT have lobbied for the bill since last fall.

Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted Thursday evening that he would sign the bill