In February, I had the unlikely opportunity to testify before Congress about the small dollar loan rule proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). My testimony was unlikely because I grew up in public housing, spent some time in federal prison for drug sales – and I’m a happy payday loan customer. Now that the CFBP officially announced their proposed rule on the 2nd for people who need a short term loan. Mine is a true success story, and I owe a large part of it to the payday loan industry. Without the payday and title loans that I could get, nothing I could have achieved would have happened.
Ten years ago, I started a commercial cleaning company, Imperial Cleaning Systems, Inc. in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Today I have 20 employees.
As most small business owners know, starting your own business is not easy. Cash isn’t always available to grow your business, and banks and credit unions don’t lend under $ 1,000 to people like me or anyone else. Access to credit is difficult to come by for many small business owners, but almost impossible for those of us who have made mistakes in the past. Personal loans, known as payday and title loans, have been my only way to keep my business afloat.
I reached out to a local company, Advance Financial, for access to cash through payday and title loans. These loans saved my business and maybe saved my life. The CFPB says these loans are too expensive. I have found that the most expensive loan is the loan that you cannot get.
The federal government is trying to drastically narrow down the only options millions of Americans like me count on to survive. The elimination of access to small loans will do more harm than good. While I don’t fully understand this 1,300-page rule proposal, I do understand that according to some studies, 80 percent of non-bank lenders could go out of business. I also understand that our communities are going to suffer and that people like me have nowhere to go for credit.
What about my privacy? The CFPB would like to add my records to a government database for a loan of only $ 200. Why should I and the people like me be singled out? The payday loans I received are quick, easy, and confidential. The CFPB intends to do away with all of this.
In March, I also testified before Congress about my experience in the payday loan industry. I sat next to a CFPB rep who, admittedly, had never been into a payday loan deal. The CFPB claims to be a “21st century data-driven agency” aiming to take a “market-based approach” to regulation. When I think of a “market based approach” in my business, I think of talking to customers and figuring out what they want. This is how I effectively meet the needs of my company. Perhaps the CFPB should speak to people like me who are served in this market.
Let me assure you that the people who visit these stores often struggle to make ends meet, but they don’t need the government to make this struggle any more difficult. Every member of Congress needs to understand the impact this will have on their constituents. Do you want to take away their only loan option? You will find a way to meet the need. Like I said when I testified, “If you don’t have it, you have to get it.” Without a licensed company, we will be forced to go to an unregulated lender or hit the streets again.
Robert Sherrill is a minority shareholder and CEO of Imperial Cleaning Systems, Inc. based in Nashville, Tennessee. Sherrills Imperial Cleaning Services derives much of its revenue from a cleaning contract with local payday lender Advance Financial.