Archive for Values

High Interest Rates Drain Local Wealth

By:  Molly Fleming-Pierre

Communities Creating Opportunity Policy and Development Director

“On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.   One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they journey on life’s highway.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Every day, thousands of families in Missouri struggle to stretch their wages across mounting bills.  Times are tough, within our faith communities we are finding too many families who lack the income to meet their basic needs.  In these difficult times, social service agencies, church emergency assistance funds, and food banks are all but tapped out.  As the financial woes for our working families mount, many Missourians turn to high interest credit, like payday and car title loans, to meet their short term credit needs.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans that are secured by a borrower’s personal check.  Payday loans typically cost $17 for every $100 borrowed and must be repaid in full before the borrower’s next payday—which translates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 445% for a two-week loan, meaning that many borrowers pay more in fees than they actually borrow. For a “typical” payday loan in Missouri, a borrower completes eight back-to-back transactions before fully repaying an average loan of $300. This accrues $410 in interest fees.

These loans cause a predatory cycle of debt that traps our families into a spiral of recurring high interest fees. Exorbitant interest rates on payday loans ensnare our struggling families into spirals of debt so usurious that a $300 loan for the month’s groceries typically ends up costing our families a whopping $710.[1]  With these rates, the average borrower pays more in interest than the original loan amount.  The triple-digit interest rate is a product of the payday loan’s very unfair design: a loan that is due in full, plus interest and fees, in two short weeks and is secured by access to a family’s banking account.

These high cost loans don’t reflect the family values of our communities, and they dishonor the old adage that hard work and persistence create prosperity.  Even individuals who are able to repay their astronomical payday and car title loan debts are unable to build credit as these lenders refuse to report positively to credit agencies.  Small dollar, high interest borrowers are therefore trapped in a financial subclass that does not allow them to maintain income or build wealth.

There are now over one thousand payday lenders in Missouri, not to mention the hundreds of car title lenders and pawnshops.  That’s more than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.  While these loans are marked as a short term fix for unexpected expenses, they tend to trap people in debt.  Because the loans (and fees) are due in full within two weeks to a month, the borrower is forced to come up with a sizeable amount of cash in a short time.

Especially in these difficult economic times, we know that Missouri families deserve better.  In order for lending to build assets in our communities, lending products must abide by a fair interest rate.  As an interfaith community, we are building a grassroots base to outlaw the triple digit interest rates that cause the debt rap.  Lowering the APR to a reasonable figure, like 36 percent APR can be accomplished by either lowering the fees charged, or by giving families more time to repay the loan.  In either case, it means a family will be given a fighting chance to succeed, rather than being ensnared in a product that by its very terms makes it almost certain the family will fail.

This month as we celebrate the life and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we are called to “transform the Jericho Road so that men and women and not constantly beaten and robbed along life’s highway.”  The Jericho Road in Missouri is broken.  Our rural, suburban, and city roads across the state run rampant with predatory lenders that charge triple digit interest, robbing our families of the wages they need to survive.  Faith community efforts are critical to freeing our neighbors from the payday debt trap.  Religious and community groups throughout the state are building a movement to Cap the Rate on these triple-digit interest products.  Visit www.cco.org or www.moresponsiblelending.org to learn how you can get involved.  Together, we can transform the Jericho Road.


[1] The average payday borrower in Missouri has 8 loans each year, most often taken out in back-to-back transactions. They therefore pay $48 in fees eight times, or $384, for what is essentially the original $290 line of credit. These data are from the Center for Responsible Lending.

 

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Missouri Bank – Making a difference

One of the awardees at the recent Center for Spirit at Work Awards Breakfast was Missouri Bank.  I thought, “how interesting, a bank reflecting values consistent with those of the Center.”  Then I heard about what they believed in and how they brought those values to life.  The more I’ve learned about Missouri Bank, the more impressed I became.  Here is some information that may help to better understand this local, committed-to-community bank:

  • Their website, which they intentionally designed to NOT be “us saying great things about us,” serves as a reflection of what their customers say about them. The home page offers their logo:  “MO Bank…be the difference” and faces in colored bubbles that speak to you, by clicking on any of the faces, you will hear actual quotes from their customers.  Check it out here.  And while you are there, you might also be interested in the “Story” tab, and within “Story,” the “Philosophy,” “Community,” and “Mobank News” links.
  • Mobank’s Crossroads branch recently won the “Green” Project of the Year award from the Kansas City Chapter of The Associated General Contractors of America. That award came on the heels of the branch’s celebrated certification as a Gold-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) award-winner – only the fourth building in Kansas City to qualify for the gold-level designation. Read more about this story here.
  • The bank also focuses on the wellness of their employees, offering a program that recognizes and supports wholistic well-being.  Their “Wellness Calendar” includes such topics as:  Intentional Living: Manifest Your Desires for Well-being; Heart Health; Nutrition: Food for Thought and Energy; The Power of Movement, Creativity, Play and Humor; Focus on Family; Simple Gratitude; and Spirituality and Health.   This Wellness Program utilizes a Wellness Coach that has worked with the bank for 8 years now.

The award from the Center for Spirit at Work was for the bank’s overall commitment to and demonstration of spirituality and ethics in the workplace.   What struck me was the bank’s strong commitment to doing good without recognition – even though some recognition has come their way.  The stories from their employees who have participated in the bank’s “pay it forward” program give evidence of the “be the difference” philosophy of the organization, its leadership and its employees.

The “pay it forward” program was started in 2007. It was designed to help their employees be more aware of those around them every day who often go un-noticed. Bank leaders wanted their team to be observant and notice the “invisible” people in the community. This was accomplished by drawing names of employees to give away money to some of those people. Following is the note that was clipped to the “pay it forward” money. The note did not identify in any way the source of the money. It was important to the bank that they NOT do this for any kind of recognition or marketing purpose.

I BELIEVE IN YOU…. I work for a place that believes in people, they believe that there’s a bond that we share as human beings, a bond that comes from common experiences, from similar understandings, and from hearts that desire many of the same things in life; respect, dignity, freedom, love, trust, pride. I may not know you, but I can tell that you’re an important person, with important goals in mind. I hope this gift helps you accomplish some of those goals, and that you are inspired to believe in yourself……and believe in others.”

After participating, each employee was asked to answer the following four questions about their experience of “paying it forward”:

  • Who?
  • Why did you choose this person?
  • How do you feel this person is better off for having received this gift?
  • How did it make you feel to know that you made a difference in this person’s life?

Here are selections from a couple of their stories:

Who?

For me this was a difficult process to really search out and find someone that had a real need. We see people every day who have struggles but I wanted to give my money to someone who needed it to survive. One day during lunch I went for a walk and was really looking for someone to help. I felt God really pressing me to walk to a certain place and as I was walking along I saw a man, sitting along a fence, who looked down in his luck.

Why did you choose this person?

I came up to him and started to talk to him. He opened up to me about his life. His name was Frank and he was having a lot of trouble finding a job and had just moved in with his sister’s family. He later told me that he had 3 kids. We talked a little more and he asked if I would go to the grocery store with him and buy him some groceries and I said I might be able to do something a little better than that. I handed him the piece of paper and he started to tear up. Then I handed him the money and he gave me a big hug and had a huge smile on his face. I said good bye and walked away knowing that Missouri Bank had made a difference in Frank’s life.

 

Who? A young women I noticed at QT

Why did you choose this person?

I noticed her struggling carrying her young son in a car seat, which he looked to be just about ready outgrow. She was carrying him in to prepay for $10.00 in gas then struggled with him back to the car and then drove her car to the pump to fill up. Her smile and they way she cared for her young son made me decide she would be a good recipient.   I remembered how expensive babies are and how drained emotionally you can be after giving so much of yourself to another all day.

I walked over and knocked on her window; she seemed wary of me but rolled down her window. I handed her the money and the note and said “I know from experience being a mom can be hard, I hope this helps.”   She said “really…really. I can’t tell you want this means” she started to cry. I just said “I hope you and your son have a blessed holiday”….ok ok I got a little teary too.

How do you feel this person is better off for having received this gift?

Hopefully she can see that others see that she is a good mother and she will feel rewarded….I hope the money helped provide a car seat, meals, or gas for her car.

How did it make you feel to know that you made a difference in this person’s life?

Since I have received my little orange envelope of money I have been so aware of people around me, looking for an opportunity. I have been amazed at the needs that I noticed just by being more aware. I feel like all the stars aligned allowing me to help this young mother. I feel better off having been the courier of such a gift.

 

Who? Anna Marie

Why did you choose this person?

She is a 3 year old girl with a rare chromosome disorder. There are only about 180 cases known in the world. Anna and her family have been on my home town church prayer list. She is also the great niece of one of my high school pals.

How do you feel this person is better off for having received this gift?

When Greg, her dad, opened the envelope his first were that he had just received another bill from the physical therapy program and that they did not know where they were going to get the money for it. The bill was for $200 exactly.

How did it make you feel to know that you made a difference in this person’s life?

I love being able to help in my community but the fact that she is a link to my home town and old high school friends really increases the emotional aspect. Thank you mobank for this opportunity.

Missouri Bank is making a difference!

This article was compiled from information provided by Missouri Bank’s George Satterlee, Chief Administrative Officer, and from the bank’s website.

Editor’s Note:  The Center for Spirit at Work provides a forum for people to explore and reflect on the integration of spiritual values and work.  To learn more about The Center for Spirit at Work, visit www.centerforspiritatwork.org.

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We Believe Healthcare is a Human Right, Not a Commodity

This article is taken from emailed information sent by the Demand Dignity Campaign of Amnesty International USA

In October 2008, President Obama affirmed that health care should be a right, not a privilege. In so doing, he echoed the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions, which hold that every human being has the right to health including health care.  Elected officials in the United States – especially President Obama, his administration, and the current Congress, but also policymakers at the state and local levels – have a historic opportunity to make good on the president’s affirmation by recognizing and treating health care as a right, and not a commodity.

Amnesty International USA believes that health care is a right, not a privilege or a commodity. At a time of uncertainty in health care reform, Congress should take guidance from these human rights principles:

1. Universality: This means that everyone in the United States has the human right to health care. Reform measures should ensure that every person has access to comprehensive, quality health care. No one should be discriminated against on the basis of income, health status, gender, race, age, immigration status or other factors.

2. Equity: This means that benefits and contributions should be shared fairly to create a system that works for everyone. Health care is a public good, not a commodity. Gaps in the health care system should be eliminated so that all communities, rich and poor, have access to comprehensive, quality treatment and services.  Publicly financed and administered health care should be expanded as the strongest vehicle for making healthcare accessible and accountable.

3. Accountability: This means that the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that care comes first. All players in the health care system, whether public or private, have human rights obligations, and must be accountable to the people.  The U.S. government is ultimately responsible for ensuring that both public agencies and private companies make health care decisions based on health needs, not on profit margins or other factors.

These principles are endorsed by Amnesty International, USA as well as other organizations.

Amnesty also believes that public programs are the best vehicles for making health care accessible and accountable, and they should be expanded and strengthened.  Medicare treats health care as a public good, rather than as a commodity or a privilege.  Medicaid and community health centers help ensure that all members of our society have access to care, regardless of ability to pay. These programs also fight inequities that hurt women, who face disproportionate barriers to obtaining private health coverage.        The political landscape has changed, but what we’re fighting for has not – the human right to health care.  Although President Obama has urged Congress to pass the health care legislation on the table, the future of reform remains deeply uncertain.  Last week’s special election in Massachusetts has forced Congressional leadership to chart a new course.  With current proposals in question, now is a crucial opportunity to move.  We must push for simple yet meaningful reform measures that will bring us closer to making the human right to health care a reality for all in the United States.  Support health care reform that serves the public good, not the insurance companies.   Expand Medicare, Medicaid and community health centers.

We are in an uncertain moment in the fight to reform American health care. This is not the time to wait and see.  Let’s remind our elected officials what progress looks like.  It’s time to keep fighting for health care for all.

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Our Values

Return to www.kcolivebranch.org

As we begin this adventure of building and confirming community, it is important to recognize our most vital asset: our faith. Flowing from that faith comes a set of values which will help us speak in a unified voice.  This does not mean, of course, that we will always agree. These values are created in anticipation of that, in fact. They will guide us in the decisions we make — not only what we publish but how we publish them. Read the rest of this entry »

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