LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan group began collecting signatures on Wednesday for a ballot proposal aimed at limiting the interest and fees charged by payday lenders they say are trapping low-income borrowers in debt cycles.
Michiganders for Fair Loans needs about 340,000 valid voter signatures by June. If enough are mustered, the measure would go to the Legislature, where efforts to curb payday lending have stalled. If lawmakers do not act, the public will vote on the initiative in November.
It would cap these loans, known as deferred presentation service transactions, at an annual interest rate of 36%. They generally amount to 370% depending on the group.
Payday loans are short-term, high-cost loans, typically $500 or less, that are usually due on the borrower’s next payday.
Jessica AcMoody, director of policy at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, said payday loan customers take out an average of 10 loans a year and 70% re-borrow the day they repay a previous loan.
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“This cycle causes significant financial damage to families trapped in debt – including difficulty paying basic living expenses and medical needs (and) repeated overdraft charges, which often lead to account closures. banks, completely distancing the borrower from the traditional banking system,” she said. “By lowering the cap rate on this predatory lending, we can keep our most vulnerable neighbors out of a cycle of bottomless debt.”
Voters in at least four states — Nebraska, Montana, Colorado and South Dakota — have capped annual interest rates on payday loans at 36% in recent years. Fourteen other states also have laws limiting short-term loan rates to 36% or less.
The voting committee had raised $25,000 by December 31. It all came from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, DC-based group supported by anonymous left-leaning donors. The fund, which also contributed $55,000 of in-kind research, has already funneled millions of dollars to Michigan’s ballot campaigns and could prove instrumental.
An opposition group, Safe Lending Michigan, was formed to counter the initiative.
Spokesman Patrick Meyers called the proposal “grossly misleading” and said it would effectively ban state-regulated payday loans.
“Michigan-based lenders with Michigan storefronts and Michigan employees will be put out of business,” he said. “Like any proposition that seems too good to be true, this one is and is not worth your signature.”
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