Religious leaders gather to support payday loan regulation

Religious leaders urge state to sign payday loan interest rate cap amendment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Religious leaders from across the state held a news conference at the state capitol Tuesday, urging the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to move forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would cap loan interest rates at 30 percent a year. 

The proposal is aimed, at least in part, at rates charged by payday lenders. 

The monthly loans, which use a person’s paycheck as collateral, often have annual interest rates well over 100 percent. Those supporting a rate cap say payday loan businesses exploit the most vulnerable residents of the state. 

According to supporters of a proposed amendment, people who take out payday loans often have the least amount of money to start with, and they end up taking out a new loan every month in order to pay basic bills. 

Reverend Phillip Miller-Evans with the Church of the Beatitudes in Saint Petersburg said several members of his congregation have asked the church to help them get out of cycle of debt.

“You go in believing that you can pay this loan back. But when you start getting those kinds of high interest rates, and the fees that are attached to them, then somebody who out of good faith goes to take that loan, finds out they can’t pay that loan off without taking another loan.” 

The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, is tasked with suggesting changes to the state’s constitution.  

Any proposed constitutional amendments recommended by this year’s 37-member commission will go on the ballot for the November 2018 elections and would require approval from 60 percent of voters to take effect.