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Michigan group collecting signatures to rein in payday loans

Payday loan spreadsheet
NPR
/
NPR
Any single payday loan isn't so bad, consumer watchdogs say. But many people get stuck taking out loan after loan with annual interest rates of 200 percent to 300 percent or even higher.

The move would cap such loans, known as deferred presentment service transactions, at a 36% annual interest rate. They typically equal 370%, according to the group.

A Michigan group began collecting signatures Wednesday for a ballot proposal to limit interest and fees charged by payday lenders they said are trapping low-income borrowers in cycles of debt.

Michiganders for Fair Lending needs roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures by June. If enough are gathered, the measure would go to the Legislature, where efforts to rein in payday loans have stalled. If lawmakers did not act, the public would vote on the initiative in November.

It would cap such loans, known as deferred presentment service transactions, at a 36% annual interest rate. They typically equal 370%, according to the group.

Payday loans are short-term, high-cost loans, generally for $500 or less, that usually are due on the borrower’s next payday.

Jessica AcMoody, policy director at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, said payday loan customers take out 10 loans per year on average and 70% reborrow the day they pay off a previous loan.

“This cycle causes significant financial harms for families caught in a debt trap — including difficulty paying for basic living expenses and medical needs (and) repeated overdraft fees, which often lead to closed bank accounts, taking the borrower out of the mainstream banking system altogether,” she said. “By lowering the rate cap on this predatory loan, we can keep our most vulnerable neighbors out of a bottomless cycle of debt.”

Voters in at least three states — Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota — have capped annual payday loan interest rates at 36% in recent years. Fifteen other states also have laws limiting short-term loan rates to 36% or lower.

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