“I ask you a question; not what, but rather…who. Who do you believe in? In whom do you put your trust?” That was one of the questions that Rucker Preston, the new TxCCDN State Coordinator left with members of the Texas House Investments and Financial Services Committee yesterday at the Capitol in Austin.
Preston, along with Gerald Britt, TxCCDN Board Director and Vice-President of City Square in Dallas, and Brittany Duncan of Helping Hands Ministry, another TxCCDN organization, all testified before the Investments and Financial Services Committee concerning HB 3081, a bill that attempts to undo years of hard work done by thousands of people, who care about their communities and the most financially vulnerable populations in Texas. The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and the Texas Catholic Conference also testified in opposition to HB 3081.
When you work towards community development and restoration in Texas, there is a good chance that you will come into contact with businesses known as payday & auto title loan businesses; companies that charge de facto interest rates on short-term loans that are typically 500-600% APR.
These types of loans trap people in a cycle of debt, causing people and families to lose their cars, jobs, housing, credit, and even causing children to miss school. With billions of dollars extracted from millions of Texans every year, payday & auto title loans are viewed to be predatory in nature as they disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic populations, women, senior citizens, veterans & active-duty military personnel, single-parents, individuals with less than a college degree, and households with a median annual income of roughly $23,000.
As the TxCCDN is called to bring healing and hope to disadvantaged communities, neighborhoods and residents of Texas by connecting, educating, training, and advocating for the poor and marginalized in our state, payday & auto title lending is a practice that goes against our beliefs and convictions.
In 2011, Dallas created a city ordinance to protect its citizens from these types of loans. The ordinance put forth several measures that enhanced borrowers’ ability to repay high-cost, short-term loans. Following the initial ordinance, 42 more cities passed the same city ordinance in order to protect people from falling deeper into financial distress. Nearly 10 million people are covered by the ordinances in the 43 cities across Texas.
HB 3081, which was introduced yesterday, attempts to preempt all 43 city ordinances, nullifying the protective measures put forth by the unified city ordinance, leaving millions of financially vulnerable Texans without any strong measure of protection from these detrimental loans at the state and local levels.
“I act on behalf of people whose voices are muffled, whose speech is inelegant”, said Rev. Britt. “For the most part, they have no ideology, other than they believe that they should work hard, come home at the end of the day and be able to enjoy their families and not be buried under a crushing burden of debt because a car breaks down, or they have a medical emergency or some relative dies and they need money to bury them.”
To close, Preston reminded the committee of the week’s significance. “As we are in the days leading to the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we remember Jesus…the one who proclaims freedom and love, and the one who always sides with the poor, marginalized, hurting, and disenfranchised. For the Texas Christian Community Development Network, we trust and believe in Jesus, the Christ. I hope you believe in Him too. And I hope that you will not support any bill that negatively affects the least of these, who are among us, those of whom Jesus always loves and supports. For Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
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