June 2014 update
Position Statement Opposing Predatory Lending in Pennsylvania

The Voice of the Poor, the advocacy arm of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – Philadelphia Archdiocesan Council, is opposed to legislation which would legalize predatory lending in Pennsylvania. This type of legislation was presented in 2012 as House Bill 2191 and in 2013 as Senate Bill 975. This year Senator Jake Corman has sent a co-sponsorship memorandum for a “90 Day Consumer Loan Program.”

The memorandum is short on details with a 28% interest rate and $20.00 application fee. The “90 Day Consumer Loan Program” does not include the terms used for calculating the interest rate and includes two other fees: a Database Fee and a Cost Differential Recovery Adjustment Fee which are not defined regarding their use, cost, or how they will impact the calculation of finance charges. Based on prior attempts to legislate a predatory loan product, careful, detailed analysis of the proposed legislation is encouraged.

Vincentians provide services to the very same people that payday lenders target in states where these loans are legal. We have seen first-hand the havoc and desperation of people struggling to pay their grocery, rent, and utility bills. Every consumer deserves access to fair, responsible, affordable credit on realistic terms and with practical repayment periods.

Impoverished people already face fragile financial situations. All struggle to meet day-to-day expenses. Payday loans extend, not solve, the financial troubles of the people served by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and that is why we continue to oppose these deceptive and unfair lending practices. Although usury is a word not used very often it does best describe what payday loans are.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Philadelphia opposes any legislation that would weaken the existing consumer protections against predatory payday lending in Pennsylvania. We urge legislators to decline co-sponsorship of Senator Corman’s bill until the language is made available to the public along with complete analysis of the proposed loan product. Pennsylvania already has one of the strongest laws in the country to guard against predatory lending; we do not need to modify our existing protections.

Should you have questions about this issue affecting the poor and working poor and their families, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I can be reached at aliciablessington@verizon.net or 610-356-2033.

February 27, 2013 Update
Voice of the Poor
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Philadelphia

Blessed Frederic Ozanam left a legacy and a responsibility for Vincentians to continue the call for charity built on justice. In the 19th Century he did bring to the forefront the following issues:

  • The idea of the basic minimum wage
  • Assistance to workers who become unemployed or can no longer work because of illness and disability
  • Retirement guaranteed for workers.

Those issues were addressed and laws were created. However, those issues along with others continue to be topics of concern in the 21st Century. Additional work is needed to improve the quality of life for many of those in need seen in our conferences here across the Philadelphia area and worldwide. The Society is concerned not only with alleviating need but also structures, societal and legislative, that cause and perpetuate poverty. Our National President Shelia Gilbert emphasizes the need for the Councils and Conferences to help create a new possibility for today and tomorrow for the people we serve through Systemic Change. As with all organizations, governance and structure are needed to carry out our mission to provide help that alleviates suffering or deprivation and promote human dignity and personal integrity. The Society’s governance and organizational structure is found in The Rule and in particular Section 7.1 to 7.9 titled Relationship with Civil Society – Work for Social Justice.

That Section explains the Voice of the Poor (VOP) which is the advocacy arm of the Society. The role of the VOP is to:

“Identify issues that are critical to those living in poverty and need.”

Help bring attention to these issues so communities and elected representatives can help develop strategies and tactics that will provide the most effective and efficient means to reduce or eliminate poverty. VOP aims to hold our elected representatives accountable for the decisions they make that affect the poor.

VOP has 11 position papers that form the basis for the Society’s position on most of the major issues that affect the people we serve. These papers are rooted in our Catholic faith and define our views of the social issues related to our Vincentians mission of helping those in need and living in poverty. You can read each position paper at www.svdp.org at the VOP link.
Position papers have been published on the following topics:

  • Affordable Housing for the Poor
  • Circle of Protection
  • Education
  • Health Care for the Poor
  • Homelessness
  • Human Trafficking
  • Hunger
  • Immigration
  • Predatory Loans
  • Restorative Justice
  • Wages, Fair and Just

VOP prepares timely updates and suggestions for needed advocacy through CAPWIZ.

CAPWIZ is an online system that allows members and supporters of the Society to reach out to lawmakers when there is legislative activity, or lack of, that affects those living in poverty.

Online, open www.svdpusa.org and click on Voice of the Poor and then select “CapWiz@email” to sign up for e-mail notifications about upcoming issues (or click here to sign up for CAPWIZ).

Involvement at the local level is carried out by contacting your local and national legislators about concerns that you have and by writing to your local newspaper. You may think they do not listen but they do and change can occur.

Upcoming legislation at the state level which needs advocacy:

  • Payday Lending Bill
  • Immigration Reform
  • Expanding Medicaid Coverage

If you are interested in becoming an advocate for Voice of the Poor please contact me via e-mail.

– Alicia Blessington
February 27, 2013