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.
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.”