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This week, local faith leaders will gather at the Council of Churches of the Ozarks to take part in a two-day statewide event that focuses on placing a cap on interest rates on predatory payday loans. Churches in Kansas City, St. Louis, Jefferson City and Springfield will host this canvassing training for clergy members in their communities. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has details on the event.
The faith leaders will collect signatures for two different initiatives: to cap the interest rate on payday loans at 36% and to the raise minimum wage by a dollar, to $8.25 an hour. Reverend Emily Bowen is the associate minister at Brentwood Christian Church and a member of the council.
“Payday loans are structured in such a way that they really trap people in a cycle of poverty. They take advantage of people when they are in desperate situations. There aren’t any caps currently on payday loans, so the interest rates right now are averaging over 400 percent, so people end up paying fees upon fees upon fees and are never able to get the loans paid back. That’s kind of what traps them in the cycle. We are working to get an initiative to go through—an initiative that will go on a ballot in November—that would cap the rate.”
Bowen said there have been organizations around Missouri that have been trying to get legislation put through the state legislature for over 10 years and nothing has happened because the payday loan industry is the second largest lobby in the state. She said that by putting the initiative directly on the ballot, the people of Missouri can decide if the capped rate is needed.
Bowen said that clergy members in Missouri feel it is important to do what they can to minimize poverty in their communities.
The Council is hosting a training session this week for members interested in campaigning for the initiative. After the training, participants will go out into the community and try to collect the rest of the signatures needed for the initiative to be placed on the ballot.
This clergy canvass effort will also focus on raising the minimum wage for Missouri working families.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.
The event starts at 10 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, located at 627 N. Glenstone Avenue. You can call 862-3586 for more information.