Writer opposes payday loan bill
Recently, I was appalled to learn of a proposed bill at the Indiana Statehouse offering a “solution” to the payday loan industry.
SB 352, dubbed the supervised consumer lending bill, claims to benefit the too many struggling Hoosiers who use these predatory services. Considering that the current legally permitted interest rates for these loans stand at 391%, a fix is definitely needed, but SB 352 right?
For anyone who has never needed to take out a payday loan, it can be easy to dismiss this problem and blame borrowers for their economic shortcomings. But it’s really not that simple. Banks often do not provide service to low-income people in many Hoosier communities.
These same people bear the greatest burden when the price of food, rent, utilities, gas and everything else goes up. Although there is help available through several sites, this information is not always easily accessible and the entry threshold into these programs can be too burdensome.
So, with highly targeted marketing and easy accessibility, the payday loan industry is rushing to fill the void.
It was my experience as a young soldier in the US Army. Growing up in a fairly comfortable middle-class existence, I was lucky enough to fall back on my parents if I had an economic emergency. But for years, I’ve watched too many of my classmates take out payday loans to manage between their meager monthly paychecks. Especially those with families, who were often already receiving some form of government assistance.
After failing too many times myself, I jumped on the payday loan bandwagon. They were very easy to get, but not so profitable. Eventually, with more expense, I made it…with help.
Once again, I was lucky to have a family I could lean on. That’s just not the reality for many service members and veterans today, 25 years later. In addition to having some of the most daunting challenges of any cohort of people in our society (high rates of depression, PTSD, drug use, financial insecurity, homelessness and suicide), veterans are heavily targeted by the payday loan industry, along with these massive interest rates and fees.
Real change needs to happen now. Not just for veterans, but for everyone in Indiana.
Although SB 352 is touted as this change to payday loan laws, it is just a fig leaf to create more profit for the industry. That our Indiana legislature continues to allow the business model of this predatory industry to exist as is, on the backs of workers and Hoosiers on fixed incomes, amazes me.
Bolstering this industry with new legislation to take even greater advantage of the most vulnerable Hoosiers is maddening and unacceptable. You can’t draw blood from a stone, and it’s high time the Indiana state house understood that.
Please join me in reaching out to your state senator and representative to tell them to vote no on SB 352. Enough is enough!
Bryce Gustafson, organizer of the Citizens Action Coalition program