Dear Editor,

At issue today is the devastating impact of payday loan interest rates on the financial stability of Kansans. The debt that payday loans inflict on people can be managed to everyone’s benefit with regulations that protect citizens. Without that regulation, interest rates balloon and keep people who borrowed trapped in a cycle of debt. With an APR of more than 390% in Kansas, there can be no question that payday loans are untenably unforgiving. 

People such as Rev. Dr. Annie Ricker find that a one-time payday loan to cover an outstanding expense will quickly spiral into long-term debt with such high-interest rates. “I had an unexpected vehicle repair bill that I couldn’t afford. Despite being employed full-time, I couldn’t get a standard loan because I didn’t have a long enough banking history or residency in the community,” wrote Rev. Dr. Ricker. “A payday lender was my only option. I borrowed $750, but by the time I had repaid the loan, I had paid back roughly $3000. Emergency loans like this are often a vital lifeline for people in times of need, but the way they are allowed to operate now, they cripple individuals and families for months or even years.”

Despite common belief to the contrary, Rev. Dr. Ricker’s story does not represent the minority of those who find themselves trapped in debt by payday loans. Payday loan debt is not a burden exclusive to (or even primarily for) those who make risky purchases; it can affect anyone. According to the Pew Research Center, fully 85% of people who take a payday loan for the first time do so to cover an unexpected emergency expense or recurring expenses, such as utilities or rent. With interest rates that turn a loan of $300 into a financial burden of $750 and a lack of payment plans, the situation can turn dire quickly. The full amount of the loan must be paid back by the borrower’s next paycheck, and when they are unable to produce that payment, new loans bound to swell with unforgiving interest rates must be taken out to cover them. With just one event — a medical expense, car or home repair, or even a spike in monthly utilities — anyone can find themselves trapped in the payday loan debt cycle. 

Kansans need not be consigned to predatory payday loans. Other states, such as Colorado and Ohio, have faced similar challenges and taken action to protect their citizens through legislation and regulation. Now is the time for the people of Kansas to stir the change that will protect our families, communities, and ourselves from exploitative payday loan debt. Make sure it is known that this is an issue Kansas cares about, an issue which must not be allowed to go ignored any longer, by getting in contact with your legislators and making your voice heard. 

Get in contact with your state legislators by entering your address in to find out who represents you and call them to let them know that payday loan reform is an issue that matters to you. Together, Kansans can call for the change we need for the financial stability we deserve.