People in poverty, the working poor, live, at best, paycheck to paycheck, often making hard choices between healthcare and hot water. Working one, two, and even three jobs in a housing market where rents have exploded doesn't leave room for savings. An emergency room visit, a flat tire, an unexpected expense at school...any of these and many other simple, everyday moments create a financial crisis.
The working poor do not have access to traditional lines of credit, which, if they did, would require collateral and nearly 10% interest. These conditions are why predatory payday and title loan lenders are flourishing. Until now, they have been the only option for too many people, and they have ended up costing as much as 450% interest, trapping the working poor in poverty.
EmpowerCredit is an alternative to the poverty trap of payday and title loans. Thanks to the financial support of generous individual and foundation donors, we are able to provide emergency loans of under $1,000 with the average loan being around $500. Loans are made for the following emergent needs of housing, education, paying off existing payday and title loans, medical expenses, and expungement fees.
Loan recipients are required to complete a financial literacy class through a collaborative partnership with local community-based organizations in Nashville. Under these conditions, loans are made at only 1% interest with payment plans between six and twelve months. Payments return to the pool of funds used to make loans for others.
EmpowerCredit hopes to partner with a financial institution in the future so that loan recipients also have the opportunity to build a positive credit history. We are in a pilot phase now with a limited number of loans with plans to scale up by the end of 2018.