Over the past four years, our fair lending advocacy group (FLAG) has made some significant progress: blocking a payday loan store from moving into Grand Rapids, helping persuade a mid-size bank to discontinue its payday loan product, and partnering with a non-profit (Inner City Christian Federation) to develop a small-dollar, short-term loan program called “Just Loans” that offers loans to vulnerable families at a reasonable interest rate.
Now, thanks to a new grant, some exciting new plans are moving forward both locally and on the state level. Rev. Dallas Lenear has begun building relationships with ten organizations here in Grand Rapids that work with people living paycheck to paycheck, the very people payday lenders target. Rev. Lenear will work with grassroots leaders from these organizations to develop “place-based financial empowerment curricula” through learning from these leaders their best practices for surviving and even thriving in the face of financial hardship. These insights will then be consolidated into a curriculum that these same grassroots leaders will teach to their peers.
In addition to joining in the development and teaching of the place-based financial empowerment curriculum, grassroots leaders will be trained in community organizing and then invited to use their new skills to address a predatory financial practice (payday lending, wage theft, rapid refund tax services, predatory car loans, etc.). “Project GREEN” is the name of this new initiative, with GREEN an acronym for “Grand Rapids Economic Empowerment Network.
Another component of Project GREEN is to build a state-wide network to address the issue of payday lending on the state level. Previously our legislative work to address payday lending stalled after finding out that, because of how the Michigan state law regulating payday lending is written, local municipalities cannot regulate payday lending. Now with increased capacity in part because of this grant, we will move forward in building a state network to end predatory payday lending in Michigan!
Want to join in this work? FLAG members are currently going to churches and organizations to collect payday loan stories and then send them on to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is in the process of implementing some important new rules regulating. FLAG's point person for this work is Cindy Burch. Cindy can be reached at: (616) 451-4887 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you been a victim of predatory lending? Please share your story with us in the field below.
FLAG members gather before crossing the street to protest payday lending store
Contact: Dallas Lenear