It’s no secret that the payday loan industry has become the target of criticism, vitriol language and policies designed to limit their business model. Everything from think tank reports condemning the industry to public officials issuing statements lambasting the product.
But what about a motion picture about payday loans and car title loans?
It’s being reported that a new documentary about payday and car title lenders has debuted in a small town in the state of Texas, which has become the epicenter of financial alternatives.
According to the Temple Daily Telegram, a film called “The Ordinance” premiered last week at the Grand Avenue Theater in Belton, Texas. It’s a documentary about the efforts of Texas communities trying to regulate payday loan stores. The movie looks at city ordinances being passed across the Lone Star State, which restrict where and when payday loan businesses can open up stores.
Reportedly, the cinema was filled with individuals who helped finish the documentary project.
The filmmakers noted in the documentary that the number of payday loan stores spiked from 340 in 2004 to 3,200 in 2014 across the state. This is more than the total number of McDonald’s, Starbucks and Whataburger put together. Some are wondering if there’s something wrong.
One summary of the film notes that at the start of the documentary Kristen Bulgrien, director of community partnerships at Helping Hands Ministry in Belton, explains that many of its Helping Hands clients come to them for financial assistance because they are deeply in debt from payday and auto title loans.
In one specific scene, the film goes as far as even depicting an elderly couple that was $4,500 in the red each time they made $500 payments for the title loan on their truck. To save money, they don’t run the air conditioner and they reuse over and over again plastic Ziplock bags.
“We want to do whatever we can but it’s far better to pass an ordinance that’s going to protect people,” Bulgrien said.
Bishop S. Vasquez of the Austin Diocese added that one-third of its members seek financial aid because they are in the red due to payday loans and auto title loans.
“It’s wrong to treat people that way,” Vasquez said. “It’s wrong to go to people who are already in a bind and design something that makes their situation worse.”
According to some public officials, it’s the state government’s fault for not doing anything about the industry. Midland Republican State Representative Jim Craddick argued that the legislature needs to do something about payday loans, adding that it’s a “pretty sad day” in Texas.
Critics of the payday loan industry often present the case that users of payday loans are sent into a never ending spiral of debt because of the exorbitant fees and interest charges tacked on to these products. On the other hand, supporters of the payday loan business model say that it’s important that low- and middle-income consumers have access to payday loans because they don’t have access to traditional forms of credit.