Economy

Payday loans not only hurt poor and working class Kentuckians — the high rates also affect service members.

Payday lenders in Kentucky made $117 million in fees in 2015. That’s from the $68 million they lent out, according to a new report from the bipartisan Task Force On Vulnerable Kentuckians.

“I do think payday lending still is one of those issues that we have never been able to tackle,” said state representative Joni Jenkins, vice chair of the task force.

Dixie Highway, which is in Jenkins’ district, has myriad check cashing businesses.

“And if you drive down Dixie Highway,” Jenkins said “every minute you see a check cashing and payday lending operation.”

She describes the interest rates of many of these lenders as “unconscionable.”

While not capped for civilians, the interest for payday lending for military members is 36 percent. According to the report, the average soldier’s salary is $30,000.

The task force recommends an annual 36 percent cap for all borrowers. It is advocating for tougher restrictions for operations that violate lending rules, including $5,000 – $25,000 fines for lenders, per violation. Currently, fines are $1,000 – $5,000.

Perpetual violators in the same year would have to abide by a “three strikes and you’re out” law, under recommendations from the task force.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.