Payday loan debate rages on in Abilene city council

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The payday loan debate picked up where it left off at the last Abilene city council meeting on Tuesday.

Supporters and opponents of a draft ordinance addressed the council at a workshop meeting Tuesday at town hall. It was a hot topic of discussion at the April 20 board meeting.

A final public hearing and a vote are scheduled at the regular council meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

The proposed order would place limits on the amount of payday loans and add further restrictions on payday lenders. At least 40 other cities in Texas have passed ordinances based on a Texas Municipal League model.

Many in the audience on Tuesday wore t-shirts that said “Stop the prescription.” However, most of the people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting were in favor of the ordinance.

Kimberly Knight, chief financial officer of Tige Boats, said some Abilenians are suffering because of payday loans taken out during difficult financial times. These people have jobs and are not poor, but they need help without the risks of payday loans.

“I have seen a lot of our employees hurt by payday loans, title loans that they will borrow,” Knight said. “They’re not really, really poor people. They’re people who get caught without help, so they fall through the cracks.”

Sometimes they end up owing $ 2,000 for a $ 300 loan, she said.

“These guys don’t go on vacation with the money. It’s just a need. They don’t qualify for financial assistance,” she said. “If they can’t qualify for a bank or something, they need places to get a loan, but they need certain regulations so they can pay it off and keep their credit.”

Michael Brown, owner of Star of Texas Financial Solutions and chairman of the Texas Organization of Financial Service Centers, a trade organization for credit access businesses, and his partner Robert Wheeler said the order would not affect fees people are complaining about, just the repayment term.

“This order would do nothing to regulate the fees charged and shorten the loan repayment period,” Wheeler said, adding that the shortening of pay periods increased the payments owed.

Jen Rogers, a social worker at the International Rescue Committee, said payday lenders need more regulation and there needs to be more education on borrowing money.

Stormy Higgins said this was not an issue the city should wait for direction from the state or the federal government.



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