Citizens, city council members discuss regulating payday lending in Abilene


ABILENE, Texas - It was a packed house at Abilene City Hall Tuesday night as residents went before city council members to give their input about a proposed ordinance that would regulate payday lending in Abilene.

Those for the ordinance said something must be done to protect some of our cities most vulnerable from extreme interest rates and high fees. Many of those in the audience were wearing shirts against the pending ordinance that would regulate payday lending.

O ne woman said she depends on payday loans to get by when she's in a financial bind.

"I'm on Social Security, and I can't afford a lot of times, but I can go get a payday loan and when I get my Social Security I can pay it back," said Viola Hills, who uses payday loans.

Hills said she takes out a payday loan about once a month or every other month.

"Usually I pay for a bill or I buy groceries," Hills said.

Citizens and members of the business and religious communities addressed city council members on the issue.

"In town I've seen 700 to 1,000 percent APR, annual percentage rate interest," said Jason Fikes, a volunteer with a program called Faith and Finances.

Fikes has volunteered for 10 years helping people make good financial decisions and get out of devastating financial situations.

"If you make these payments in 14 days and pay that kind of interest and those kind of fees, I think there is a different service you could probably be using," Fikes said. "Someone's probably taking advantage of you, and you may not even know it."

A second public hearing will be held at the regular city council meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. City council members could vote on the ordinance at that time.

Also at Tuesday's special called meeting was the discussion of illegal dumping.

City council members suggested adding more illegal dumping signs to certain areas or going as far as loaning out cameras to citizens to catch illegal dumpers in the act.

The city manager talked about a residential collection station where people could dump items for free. All of that is just discussion at this point.

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