COLUMBIA — A joint campaign between two Missouri organizations was launched with a kickoff event Saturday in an aim to educate the public and gain supporters.
The general focus of the event was the role each person plays in what the committees see as the war against payday loans and insufficient minimum wage.
“We don’t want to compete,” Grass Roots Organizing Director Robin Acree said. “We want to combine.”
The Missourians for Responsible Lending initiative aims to cap the payday loan interest rate. Currently, the interest rate is at 400 percent; the initiative would cap it at 36 percent per year. It also aims to fight predatory lending, a practice that involves high interest rates, excessive fees and deceptive marketing on some types of loans.
The Secretary of State approved language for the Missourians for Responsible Lending initiative in August.
That initiative's recent partner, Give Missourians a Raise, want to increase the current state minimum wage by a dollar, putting the minimum wage at $8.25 an hour.
The kickoff event for the partnership was held at the Boone County Commission Chambers and hosted by GRO. About 80 people attended and joined together in chants, such as, “Beat back the shark attack, we’re gonna beat, beat back the shark attack.”
Barbara Ross, a representative of Missouri Faith Voices, a group that associates with churches, faith communities, clergy and faith leadership in Missouri, spoke from the standpoint of “social injustice” in regard to the payday loans industry. She also talked about helping others in need.
“There’s an old African Proverb,” she said. “When you pray, move your feet. Well, we can’t just sit around and pray about these things. We have to move our feet.”
Ross said she is fortunate to have never had to take out a payday loan, but it doesn’t stop her from seeing what a “horrid thing it is.”
Rachel English, the community organizer for the joint campaign, said churches have received letters from groups opposing the campaign telling them not to join it.
“I think they know churches are really powerful,” English said. “And they know people of faith will often come out and act on their faith and their values and their morals. And so, if they can scare churches away, they think they can stop the campaign.”
English said earning $7.25 an hour — $15,000 a year — is not enough for people supporting families to make it.
“I’ve worked for minimum wage before, in a state that has a higher minimum wage, and I came back to Missouri and I’m like ‘What’s going on?'" she said. "It’s $7.25. It ought to be $8.25, which it is in a number of other states.”
MU Extension specialist Brenda Procter gave a summary of the Show-Me Predatory Lending: Where Does the Money Go? research report.
She said that patterns in industry data show repeat borrowing as core to the business model of high-cost lenders. She also said of all the people who take out loans, only 2 percent of the borrowers pay them off on time and do not return for another loan within the year.
Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise plan to continue gathering signatures in a petition to support their campaign. They hope to gather 105,000 signatures statewide.