After 30 days, Davis was unable to get the money to pay the bond, so he reapplied and was charged an additional fee of $ 75. In just one week, the lender made a gain of $ 150 on a single loyal customer.
“We’ve been in this vicious cycle for almost three years,” Davis said, continuing to pay the fees to reapply to avoid defaulting on the transaction he hoped would solve his money problems.
Finally, he saw an opportunity when he got a refund of his taxes and finally got his revenge and finished his obligation to the deferred deposit company.
“But in those three and a half years, the fees have exceeded $ 5,800,” he told NET News, still looking astonished at the figure, rooted in the initial attempt to get $ 425 from extra pocket money.
This kind of vicious circle prompted a coalition of advocacy groups to launch the petition campaign that passed the payday loan issue. Currently, the fees are the equivalent of an annual loan rate of 405 percent. Approval of the election initiative would limit this rate to 36%.
“I think voters in Nebraska, in general, understand that the 400% interest rates are just too high,” said Audrey Mancuso, executive director of Voices for Children in Nebraska, one of the groups that make campaign for lower tuition fees. She estimates that customers using a deferred deposit would save $ 20 million in fees on their own.
“All of the profitability of their business model is built around people taking loans back, taking loans over and over again and somehow not being able to repay them.
For those customers who come back frequently, that amounts to spending over six thousand dollars in fees over a year. Father Damian Zuerlein of Saint Francis Cabrini in Omaha has observed over the years some parishioners grapple with the debt burden of borrowing from what some call “predatory lenders”.
He told NET News, “From a Christian point of view, taking a high interest rate was considered theft. So you take someone who is in a crisis, and you use their crisis as a way to profit financially from their pain. “
Herndon, with the family business Hometown Cash Advance, dismissed the criticism and said “people are misinformed”.
Rather than being a predator, Herndon firmly believes that she is providing a service.
“If we’re making billions, we sure wouldn’t be on the north side of North Platte, Nebraska, as they call it, the slum part, which is why we started here.”
His mother started the business, McVay said, “because we wanted to help low-income people to help them get out of the hole.”
If Hometown Cash sues a customer, the maximum it can claim is the initial $ 500 transaction plus a small fine. They only pursued seven cases this year. It’s a local business. The clientele is reliable. A search of court records only revealed a few dozen instances where the company sued a client for non-payment.
She boasts that her customers are so loyal and word of mouth so good: “I haven’t advertised in 11 years.”
Most of Hometown, Nebraska’s competitors are large national chains owned by foreign companies.
National short-term loan industry advocates say higher fees and rates are a necessary part of the business. Unlike banks that require credit history checks, payday loan providers claim they take greater risks.
If voters choose to limit transaction fees, Herndon and his mother say there is only one option left.
“We will close our doors,” she said to a visitor, her voice becoming soft and calm.
The family doesn’t see how the business can profit when the proposed fee is $ 1 and 38 cents per transaction.
“You would have to have a huge customer base to, for example, pay your electricity bill,” she said. “If my light bill is $ 266 (and fees are capped) at $ 1.38, how many clients will it take me to get there?”
Borrowers McVay and Davis illustrate both sides of the problem.
McVay believes that payday lenders provide an essential service that must be protected. She does not agree with the initiative of the ballot.
“Actually, I’m going to vote no because I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think it’s been overkill.” She said her experience was great and possible because of her personal relationship with the owners of the family.
“I’m honest with them, and they’re honest with me, and that’s what I appreciate.”
Phil Davis and his family have returned to good financial health, but it still stings from his bad payday loan experience. He concedes that he shares the blame for going over his head, but believes that keeping costs down serves a greater good.
“They are there for a purpose and they are helping people,” he says, “but with the way they run their business, the poor get poor, while the rich get richer.”
Davis will vote in favor of the state law change.
There are powerful forces aligned against them. Before the petition campaign even began, a half-million-dollar out-of-state campaign donation arrived from the Washington-based Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal group backed by anonymous donors.