Writer resists payday loan bill
I was recently dismayed to learn of a bill from the Indiana Statehouse that would provide a “fix” for the payday loan industry.
SB 352, called the Supervised Consumer Loan Bill, purports to benefit the too many struggling Hoosiers who use these predatory services. Given that the current legal interest rate on these loans is a whopping 391%, a fix is definitely needed, but SB 352 isn’t.
For anyone who has never had to take out a payday loan, it can be easy to dismiss this problem and blame the borrowers for their economic failings. But it’s really not that easy. Oftentimes, banks in many Hoosier communities do not offer services to low-income individuals.
The same people carry the heaviest burden when the prices of groceries, rent, utilities, gas and everything else increase. While help is available from a number of places, this information is not always readily available and the entry level for these programs can be overly cumbersome.
With highly targeted marketing and easy accessibility, the payday loan industry is crashing to fill the gap.
That was my experience as a young soldier in the US Army. Growing up in a fairly comfortable middle-class existence, I was fortunate enough to have my parents to fall back on in times of economic hardship. But for years I’ve watched too many of my buddies take out payday loans to get by between their meager monthly paychecks. Especially those with families who often already received state support.
After falling short once too many times myself, I jumped on the payday loan bandwagon. They were very easy to get but not so much to pay for. Eventually, along with more fees, I made it… with help.
Again, I was fortunate to have a family I could rely on. To this day, 25 years later, this is simply not the reality for many soldiers and veterans. In addition to facing some of the most daunting challenges faced by any cohort of people in our society (high rates of depression, PTSD, drug use, financial insecurity, homelessness, and suicide), veterans are being heavily targeted by the payday loan industry, accompanied by these massive interest rates and fees.
Something really needs to change now. Not just for the veterans, but for everyone in Indiana.
Although SB 352 is touted as this change in payday loan laws, it is just a fig leaf to make more profits for the industry. That our Indiana legislature continues to allow this predatory industry’s business model to survive on the backs of working and fixed-income Hoosiers amazes me.
Fortifying this industry with new legislation to make even more profit from these most vulnerable Hoosiers is annoying and unacceptable. You can’t get blood out of a rock, and it’s long overdue for the Indiana Statehouse to understand that.
Please join me in contacting your senator and your state representative to tell them to vote no on SB 352. Enough is enough!
Bryce Gustafson, program organizer Citizens Action Coalition