Legislature Fails To Protect Poor From Financial Predators

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Businesses are driving poor people further into poverty says a group of Minnesota religious leaders. Their new report on “poverty profiteering” says inaction by Minnesota lawmakers is to blame along with payday lenders, big banks, and wall street.

“Our legislators, the people we elected who are in office right now, have failed to stand with the people of Minnesota to reign in those who are profiting off the poor,” said Pastor Paul Slack, President of Isaiah, a faith-based community action organization.

The report, “The High Price of Poverty: How Big Banks, Wall Street, and the Minnesota Legislature Facilitate Poverty Profiteering,” was released during a May 25th press conference at the State Office Building by Isaiah.

“Poverty Profiteers” Lobby To Fight Regulation

The report explains that debt collectors, payday loan companies, and other organizations both work to block fair lending law regulations and other laws and fight bills that would decrease poverty in Minnesota, such as those around higher wages and earned sick leave. It reads:

“Through massive campaign contributions and relentless lobbying, poverty profiteers and the high financiers that back them have captured the very people and institutions that should protect low-income people.”

During the press conference, Isaiah clergy organizer Pastor Grant Stevensen stated that this year’s legislative session was a failure in terms of the lack of action taken to protect working Minnesotans.

“We have seen a lack of movement in almost every way on working for Minnesota’s working families.”

In the Legislature, SF1815 and and HF 1545, which would have regulated payday loans, did not make it out of committee. Both bills were authored during the 2015 legislative session and were referred to their respective Commerce committees, but did not move from there.

“There was a bill to bring interest rates from an average of 277% to 36%. Well over 80% of Minnesotans agree with that but not one committee hearing, not one debate. What does it take to have a conversation about Usury? What does it take to have a debate about predatory practices that siphon money unjustly out of the hands of those who are struggling?” said Stevensen.

Isaiah is asking each Minnesota legislator to sign a petition stating they will not accept campaign contributions from organizations deemed poverty profiteers and to pass legislation regulating payday loans.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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