by Chris Sanders, KBF Interim Coordinator
Payday lending is causing a lot of trouble in Kentucky. The interest rates are sky-high. It’s too easy and quick to get a loan, and then more loans. Debt mounts up fast, and good people who want to pay their bills get in over their heads. I’ve been speaking about it in our churches. Every time I do, someone in the congregation tells me their own story. It’s a church issue, just like the way our churches help working poor people pay their rent, buy groceries, and keep shoes on their kids’ feet. We’ve got to say something.
We’re off to a good start. Mark Howell of First Frankfort, Sharon Felton of Faith in Georgetown, and I went to Washington in mid-November to speak a word about payday-lending reform. We trained with the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Center for Responsible Lending. We got together to push for capping the interest rate at 36% (I know, it sounds high, because it is, but the current average rate in Kentucky is 391%!) And then we went to Capitol Hill.
Everyone asks, “So, what did they say?” We visited several members of Congress, or their staff. Overall, with some differences, it was fairly positive. They all know it’s a big problem. They all say there have to be some changes. I’ve been involved in legislative work for a long time, and that’s a good sign. When there’s some consensus that change is necessary and critical, change can come.
Why is this our job? Because advocacy is what love looks like in public. Mark Howell puts it eloquently:
"The Biblical narrative has language from the beginning in Genesis to the end in Revelation of the need to care for our neighbors, our brothers and sisters and especially those who are vulnerable. The language intensifies when reading the prophets andramps up even more as we move into the Gospel story. The prophets call for doing justice and walking humbly with your God in Micah to Amos where warnings abound in regard to oppressing the poor and crushing the needy. The call seems clear from the prophets to care for the widows, the orphans, the strangers, and the oppressed. John the Baptist and then Jesus pick up this mantra and begin to call for the Children of God to carefor the least of these.
The season of Advent is upon us, and our Scripture tells us Christ came into the world a vulnerable infant needing help from Mary and Joseph and others to thrive. Now it is our responsibility to seek protections for our vulnerable neighbors so they may be able to get out from under this mountain of debt and remain free from the burden it has caused."
Next stop, Frankfort. In February, Kentucky Fellowship leaders are training on payday-lending reform, and then speaking to legislators at the state capital. Join us. #StopTheDebtTrap!