Payday Lending Expansion is Unacceptable, Usury Must End
Clergy representing the Florida faith community converged on the Capitol Building in Tallahassee this morning, calling on lawmakers to reject a payday loan expansion bill and instead to cap payday lending interest rates in the state, which are currently in the triple digits. The faith leaders were compelled to show up in Tallahassee after watching a harmful bill backed by payday lenders move through one committee after another despite its harmful impact being presented to lawmakers.
“Why is it that the people who stand behind me and who have been working on this for years have not been able to have a voice, while the payday lending industry has not only been heard, it is moving rapidly through the process?” said Rev. James T. Golden, of the AME Church of Florida. “While I do not begrudge any business from making a profit, I do not think that it is fair that most of the profit from this business comes from the backs of people who can least afford it. If you want to provide a service, provide it. But if you want to create a situation where people are just not able to get beyond where they are, the payday lending industry is for you.”
SB 920/HB 857 would allow payday lenders to make larger, longer debt traps at over 200% annual interest, adding another tool for predatory lenders operating in Florida. Payday lenders already extract over $300 million per year from the pockets of low-income families, and over 80% of payday loans in Florida go to people stuck in more 7 or more loans in a year.
Representative Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) joined the faith leaders at a news conference, and said, “This is a product that’s not needed at this time and I stand in solidarity with the faith-based leaders and the other organizations represented here today in opposition to this bill. Money matters and fairness in lending matters.”
Ingrid Delgado, speaking on behalf of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “The lending product proposed by SB 920 and HB 857 would cost consumers even more dollars in fees. This is a step backwards. However, one step in the right direction would be consideration of bills filed by Senator Baxley and Representative Bobby O, which would cap these loans at more reasonable APR rates as has been done in other states.”
“The wide span of the church, Catholics, mainline Protestants and the Black churches, have strong and clear teaching on biblical standards of economic fairness, said Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer, Florida Council of Churches. “Together we oppose these bills to create payday lending products that permit usury. Such lending takes food out of the mouths of children for luxurious wealth of the rich. It cannot be justified and to take funding from the industry is like accepting 30 pieces of silver – the price for selling out Jesus.”
“The three Abrahamic faith traditions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity all speak strongly regarding usury, the charging of excessive interest rates, and this bill brings with it annual percentage rates of 208%,” said Rachel Gunter Shapard, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. “We have seen members of our congregations and those in the communities around them fall victim to the debt trap that this type of loan supported by this bill creates.”
Payday lenders claim they need a new product in Florida to avoid falling under a rule by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is meant to protect people from long-term debt traps. But the CFPB rule is under attack in Washington and may never take effect.
The bill is opposed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Florida Council of Churches, and 11th District Episcopal AME Church. Joining the faith community in opposition to this bill are Latino Leadership, Florida Prosperity Partnership, Florida Veterans for Common Sense, UnidosUS, Florida Hispanic Unity, Florida Legal Services, League of Southeastern Credit Unions, Catalyst Miami, Solita’s House, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Beaches Habitat for Humanity and a growing list of other organizations in Florida.