By Sharon Felton
Christmas time—the time most of us try to think of others, give to those we love, step out and give to those in need. We sign up to take families in need and buy them gifts, feed them a meal, pick an angel off of the angel tree. It’s a time we think of others and extend a hand. What if this year, in addition to continuing our traditions of serving and helping others throughout the holidays, we also all work together to make a difference that lasts well past Christmas?
If we all raise our collective voices and make some phone calls or write some emails and letters, maybe even make a visit, we could stop predatory lending and actually help end cycles of poverty and debt for people. We can actually come together and make a difference that has lasting impact, a life-giving change for so many!
Christmas is a time when payday lenders are out in full force, urging people to take out a loan to help them get through the holidays. Just a small loan to get those gifts, buy the Christmas dinner, pay their electric bill, purchase medications, and on and on. This time of year in particular, the debt trap increases as people get stuck borrowing loan after loan and rolling them over and over trying to make Christmas special for their families—or even just trying to make ends meet and survive.
Heating bills cost more, kids are home from school so food costs more, people get sick more often in winter—so many reasons people need more money at this time of year. People stumble into payday loans because they are glaringly available in low income areas and their advertising makes it seems so easy and simple and inexpensive. Payday loans and small dollar loans are portrayed as so helpful to get people over the hump and through the holidays. In reality, they are deceptive, costly and life draining, and seemingly impossible to ever pay back with all of the fees, interest and principle.
In my state of Kentucky, the average interest rate is near 400% Annual Percentage Rate. In other states it can run even higher. Someone can walk into a payday loan establishment and take out a $300.00 loan and in just a few short months, with fees and interest rates, end up owing over $800.00 without ever making a dent on the original principle. We have to end this predatory debt trap.
So this Christmas, let’s put a stop to this practice once and for all!
This Christmas season, give the gift that can change a life. Endorse the principles of Faith for Just lending by clicking on this link www.lendjustly.com, contact your congressional leaders in Washington and tell them to “support strong rules and regulations for payday loans put forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”, tell your legislators in Washington to vote NO on H.R. 4018 (a bill written with the help of payday lenders in Florida loosely, if at all, regulating payday loans), write the CFPB and tell them stories of people you know who have been negatively impacted by payday loans at http://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/tellyourstory.
Make this Christmas about lasting, life-giving change. Take a few minutes this holiday season and make an impact that reaches far beyond December and far beyond one or two families. Take a minute to give lasting hope to families all over the country who are drowning in payday debt. Tis the season to stop the debt trap for good!
For more information on CBF Advocacy efforts and predatory lending go to www.cbf.net/payday-lending/.
Sharon Felton serves as the CBF Advocacy Outreach Specialist in Kentucky.