Prioritize the poor and vulnerable: Support HB 1916

My name is Jennifer Allmon, and I am the Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops testifying in support of HB 1916. The Texas bishops support prioritizing the poor and vulnerable when addressing social and economic needs through public policy. We seek to assist those who are in the greatest need through various means, and that includes opposing usurious loans such as payday and auto title lending.

HB 1916 would prohibit payday and auto-title lenders from using telemarketing calls to solicit consumers whose name and telephone number are on the Texas “No Call List.” Exceptions are if the consumer is a party to a contract with the business or was a party to a contract and the call is made before the first anniversary of the date the contract was terminated.

The TCCB’s perspective on this bill is informed by our direct service and ministry to the poor and vulnerable. Our Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, parish-based programs, and other ministries see the effects day in and day out of families struggling to get by. For example, 83% of payday or auto title loan users had trouble paying back the full loan when it came due. 70% had to extend or get new loans because they could not pay the full loan amount. 46% extended their loans at least three times. 57% took 3 months or more to pay back loans.

While we recognize that poor communities have often been underserved by traditional financial institutions and need access to credit, payday and auto title loans only exacerbate the problem with exorbitant interest rates and onerous terms. That is why we have supported development of alternative financial products such as St. Vincent de Paul’s Mini Loan Program and payday conversion loans and promote Catholic Charities’ financial assistance programs.

The TCCB joins Pope Francis who forcefully spoke against crushing the poor with debts they cannot pay. The Holy Father said, “Usury humiliates and kills. Usury is a grave sin. It kills life, stomps on human dignity, promotes corruption, and sets up obstacles to the common good.” For these reasons, we request you support HB 1916 to limit payday and auto title loan telemarketing calls.