Opponents demand closure of Wichita company
A liquor store, a closed Walmart, a dollar store and now a securities lender can all be seen around the corner of 13th and Oliver.
TitleMax opened around the corner on Saturday, an employee said, as more than 25 community members, as well as past and current elected officials, gathered outside to protest, holding signs and handing out leaflets . Protest organizer Ti’Juana Hardwell said payday and title loan companies are preying on people from black and Hispanic communities. She said they weren’t going to stop until the business closed – a push, according to Hardwell, had managed to get similar businesses out years ago before the securities lending company reappeared .
“When they decide to move in … it’s at the expense of black and brown families,” said the 33-year-old real estate agent and business owner. “They know exactly what they’re doing. They charge upwards to 390% (interest).
Pew Nonprofit Charitable Trusts show annual percentage rate charged on payday loans vary across 36 states that allow them: from more than 500% to 129% in Colorado. Kansas is at 391%. A payday loan is a cash advance on a salary. Securities lending companies, like TitleMax, also charge exorbitant interest rates, opponents say.
“So they’re taking advantage of the hardships of blacks and hard-working browns,” Hardwell said. “We are really fed up. We are fed up with them attacking our community. They’re sharks, that’s what they are.
The TitleMax employee directed questions to the company’s head office, which could not be reached.
TitleMax has said in the past that it helps individuals get loans when they need them while still maintaining the use of their vehicle.
Kansas Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Democrat from Wichita, attended the protest. She said she presented a invoice targeting title and payday lenders in the 2020 legislative session. She hopes to have legislation, which would reduce the frequency of payments and lower interest rates, approved in the 2021 session.
” It’s a company. We are not saying it is not necessary, ”she said. “Yes, because a traditional bank will not grant you this loan. But let’s make it a little fairer so that people don’t get helpless trying to get a little help.
Wichita City Council member Brand Johnson had planned to attend, but found out he had COVID-19 earlier today. He did a live on Facebook from the company’s parking lot on Tuesday. He captioned the video: “New alert on predatory lending institutions!
He said people should be careful before taking out a short term loan from these types of lenders because of the exorbitant interest rates they charge.
“It keeps you in a perennial trap that often upsets the average citizen,” Johnson said. “This is not the type of business we need in our community. Yes, jobs are created, but at what cost?
In a phone interview, Johnson said he would work with the legal team to see if there is a recourse to stop TitleMax.
He said title loan and payday loan businesses are not properly regulated at the state level. He recommended people in that area get a loan from Capitol Federal, which is moving across the corner from TitleMax.
At the intersection on Saturday, Hardwell was handing out flyers to commuters descending the 13th. The flyer lists resources that people can use instead of taking out a short-term loan.
“Make Payday and Securities Loans Your Last Option!” Says the flyer.
Former board member Lavonta Williams said she hoped the location, which once housed the longtime Creations by Crawford flower shop before the owner died, would have been used as a small grocery store with fresh products.
This area once had a Dillons, then there was the Walmart which is now closed across the street. A Family Dollar near the corner does not contain nutritional foods, Williams said.
Studies show that minority communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Lack of access to health care has been one of the suspected reasons. Access to nutritious food could also impact health, making people more susceptible to the virus.
“Right now we are the most vulnerable because of the pandemic,” Williams said.