State could use proposed payday loan regulations

Published 12:01 am Saturday, January 11, 2014

Relief for Alabama residents stuck in cyclical debt may be among the issues tackled when the Alabama legislature convenes this coming week.

State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), the lead sponsor of payday loans bill, said even lowering the interest rates to 100 percent would be a significant victory.

Many payday loan businesses charge interest rates of more than 450 percent for a maximum of $500. The most common type of loan sets a deadline of 14 days for repayment. Critics of the industry say the interest rates are too high for Alabama residents to pay debt off in a timely manner.

“If you don’t have $300 to pay for car repairs on Monday, the chances of you having the money to pay off the loan in 14 days is pretty nonexistent, so you keep paying the interest rate and the original debt keeps growing,” Todd said.

Todd hopes to pass legislation that would control interest rates, and create a database to prevent a person from taking out multiple pay day loans at one time. So far, her efforts to regulate payday loan operations have come up short in the state legislature.

“We are looking at the money they are giving people. They have raised a ton of money and they have made it clear they going to make sure they get people elected who will not vote for this regulation,” Todd said.

In the last two months of 2013 alone, Alabama Lenders PAC — a political action committee representing payday businesses — donated more than $35,000 to Alabama legislators’ campaigns, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office.

Rep. Todd’s effort to protect poor Alabamians has gained the support of a number of municipal governments who have agreed to stop licensing the businesses. Legislators who support business and those who support individuals should look for the middle ground here. Limiting the number of loans individuals can get from very short-term lenders could keep many poor people from further financial problems.