Payday loans could face more restrictions

LAS VEGAS - If you want to take out a payday loan in Las Vegas, it's not hard to find a lender. The state treasurer's office says there are more payday loan businesses than there are McDonald's in Nevada.

However, with that accessibility comes problems.

There is no cap on interest rates for payday loans in Nevada. So if you don't pay it back quickly, you fall into a deep financial hole fast.

It's been a problem in the Las Vegas valley since the recession and the state treasurer has had enough.

"They have to sell parts of their bodies just to make extra money," said AJ Buhay, the field director for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN).

At a meeting in Las Vegas, state Treasurer Dan Schwartz is hearing the stories of how people are getting caught in payday loan traps.

The average Nevadan ends up owing 526 percent of what they borrow leaving many in financial ruin.

"If you went in and borrowed $100, you would be paying back $626" Schwartz said.

Part of the problem, according to victim advocates is how accessible payday loans are to people who simply can't afford to use them.

"A lot of people aren't making enough and they're forced to resort to these really bad options for them, like payday loans," Buhay said.

As a community organizer, Buhay works daily with people who take out payday loans. He says many people don't make enough money to repay the high interest rate loans.

"It compounds. Their next paycheck is already earmarked for this payday loan that they have out, so they have to find somewhere, they have to find another source of income," he said.

Consumer attorney Tennille Pereira says that problem stems from the lack of a central database tracking loan activity.

"As of right now, they can't get a loan for more than 25 percent of their income, however, if they have three different loans out with three different lenders, nobody knows that," Pereira said.

What's the solution?

The state treasurer has met with lenders, consumers and advocates.

He expects a bill that combines interest rate caps, forming a database and mandating financial education in schools to be heard in Carson City next year.

When you look at how Nevada ranks for financial literacy -- or knowledge of finances -- among its citizens, it's not good.

Nevada ranks 49th out of 50, but that's an improvement. Nevada was dead last a year ago.
 


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