- April 30, 2014
By Carolyn Fernandez, Stephanie Lundgreen and Coquese L. Williams
Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas
During the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature, many of us anticipated that our representatives in Austin would enact legislation to protect Texans from the sometimes questionable business practices of payday and auto title lenders. Unfortunately, proposed bills died in Committee, and the payday and auto title lending industry has continued to lure vulnerable Texans into financial situations from which recovery will be difficult.
Dreams of quick fixes to financial problems too often become nightmares with spiraling interest rates of 500 percent, rollover loans that have consumers paying 4 and 5 times the initial amount borrowed, direct debits from bank accounts that leave no money for rent or food, and repossessions of vehicles that take the only transportation available to get to work. The examples cited are real, and they have happened here in the Diocese of Beaumont. These stories are typical of clients that we see at Catholic Charities, through our Emergency Assistance Program and our Asset Building Case Management Program.
Following the lack of action by the Texas Legislature during the 2013 legislative session, leaders of several statewide advocacy groups, including the Texas Catholic Conference, decided to coordinate a series of events across the state to assist local communities in responding to the problems associated with payday lending. Catholic Charities served as the host and convener for the Beaumont stop.
The “roadshow” that stopped in Beaumont in January involved an education presentation with community leaders, including a presentation on local alternatives that could be developed. We were pleased that Bishop Guillory participated in the session, as did members of the Catholic Charities Board and our Board Advocacy Committee.
“I had two daughters who died within seven months of each other. One of them was sick with breast cancer and I needed money to get her medication. She encouraged me to get a loan to get it for her and so I did. The loan was $380 and she’s been dead a year and every month I pay on it but it’s the same thing and never goes down. When you pay for five months, even though some of my notes are $85-100, then when five months are up, they tell me that I need to roll it over and it starts over as the same thing and I don’t get credit for all of the payments that I made during the five months. I’m 81 years old. I retired a long time ago. I get my husband’s social security and widow’s pension. I would never go to one again. I’ve got to keep paying to try to pay it off. If they take money from my bank account, I won’t have money for other bills. I have no other choice but to pay it off. There are other bills that I need to pay that I can’t because of these payments.”