By Tasnim Shamma – WABE
The nonprofit research group Center for Responsible Lending said changes proposed by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could hurt Georgia’s military service members.
The federal agency’s interim director Mick Mulvaney said he doesn’t want his agency to be responsible for enforcing the Military Lending Act by proactively supervising banks, credit card companies, and other lenders.
The Military Lending Act protects service members and their families financially, for example capping interest rates at 36 percent.
Tom Feltner is director of research at the Center for Responsible Lending, in Durham, N.C.
“Congress moved in 2013 to expand the Military Lending Act to cover all forms of high-cost credit targeting service members,” Feltner said. “That’s particularly relevant in Georgia, where car title loans are widely available.”
The center’s research found Georgia consumers pay $200 million in fees each year for car title loans.
More than 63,024 people are on active duty in the state. The Georgia Attorney General’s office and consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch published a military consumer protection guide in 2015 and revised it in 2017.
“Military personnel and their families are financially distressed, especially in Georgia where there are few state laws to provide additional protection beyond those afforded by the Military Lending Act (MLA),” Georgia Watch wrote on its website about the guide. “The targeting of military personnel by short term lenders can be best exemplified by looking at the high volume of sub-prime lenders that cluster outside of the gates of military bases.”
Even with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looking to reduce oversight, Georgia Attorney General spokesperson Katie Byrd said their office launched a Basic Training app to educate service members about “fiscal responsibility and schemes perpetrators will try to pull.”
“Attorney General [Chris] Carr and our Consumer Protection Unit will continue doing everything in our ability to protect our military servicemen and women from unscrupulous activity in the marketplace,” said
“We want to empower them with the tools they need to make smart financial decisions and focus on preventing them from falling victim in the first place.”
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