A lot has happened since my last blog post…
At the end of June, I was able to teach a class to a group of Summer Scholars on the payday loan industry and how JIFFI is working as an alternate option. They were very interested in learning about the injustices that surround payday loans and were able to put themselves in the place of our clients through the game Spent at playspent.org. We then went over two fictional client applications and took on the roll of our credit team to decide whether the client could handle a loan from us. (I forgot to get a class picture!)
Later in June, Grace and I also met with two associates at REAL Services of South Bend. They provided us with a great deal of information about some of the services they offer, which include the Energy Assistance Program, Weatherization Program, Individual Account Development Program, Family Development Program, and Aging and Disabled Resource Center. All of these will be very helpful to our clients and I have started referring clients to them accordingly, in addition to receiving at least one client from REAL Services.
Over the past month, I have met with a few more clients and given out two more loans and have worked more on our community partner list. As I’ve had to say no to some clients, this list has been extremely helpful in giving them somewhere else to turn instead of just leaving them hanging.
Additionally, I’ve started doing research on an interesting payday lender “alternative” called LendUp, which is actually advertised on the Credit Karma website. It is a completely online payday lender that can give someone a loan within 24 hours, but at the same high interest rates as their payday lending counterparts. However, by paying off your first loan on time, you can earn lower interest rates for future loans. You can also earn lower interest rates (“climbing up the LendUp ladder”), by completing financial education modules through your account and earning ‘points’. Besides the lower and lower interest rates, the incentive to keep using LendUp is that once you reach a certain level of points, LendUp starts reporting your credit to credit agencies and you can start to improve your credit score. They appear to be relatively transparent on their website, telling you upfront the interest rates, and they allow free 30-day extensions on loans if you are struggling. I read many positive and many negative reviews, and while it does appear to be the better option of a typical payday lender, I still wouldn’t recommend using LendUp if it can be avoided (certainly, this is where JIFFI would be the best option).
So far, it’s been a very enlightening summer and I’m looking forward to starting again in August in my old position in Community Outreach with a new more knowledgeable perspective, which will be helpful in kick-starting our new school year.