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Bemidji City Council hears presentation on payday loan laws

During a work session Monday, the Bemidji City Council heard from Minnesotans for Fair Lending regarding regulations on payday loans.

Bemidji City Hall 2020 web art.jpg
Bemidji City Hall.

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council met for a work session Monday, where members learned about the state of Minnesota's payday loan laws.

The presentation was given by the organization Minnesotans for Fair Lending. According to the presentation, Minnesota law allows a typical $380, two-week payday loan to cost as much as $40, with an annual percentage rate of up to 275%.

Additionally, large lending companies can operate under different licensure than smaller lenders, evading regulations. As part of their presentation, MLF representatives argued that regulations in the state should be tighter to protect consumers from high rates.

An example of those regulations was an ordinance approved in Moorhead, Minn . The ordinance there allows no more than two short-term loans of $1,000 or less per calendar year.

The ordinance also does the following:

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  • Allows a minimum repayment within 60 days of the loan origination.
  • For loans between $350 and $1,000, lenders are not allowed to charge more than 33% annual interest.
  • Lenders are prohibited to charge an additional fee for an extension or increase the balance owed above the original amount.
  • No more than four consumer short-term loan businesses can be located in the city.

Following the presentation, Ward 1 Councilmember Audrey Thayer expressed interest in a similar ordinance for Bemidji.
Ward 3 Councilmember Ron Johnson and Mayor Jorge Prince, meanwhile, said a better option would be advocating for a change in state law at the Minnesota Legislature. Johnson said the topic can be brought up to lobbying groups such as the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the League of Minnesota Cities for consideration during a legislative session.

Regionally, three nearby states have passed payday loan laws:

  • In North Dakota, the Legislature set a maximum loan amount of $500 and set a loan tenure at 60 days.
  • In South Dakota, a ballot measure passed capping interest rate at 36%.
  • A ballot measure in Nebraska capped payday loan annual percentage rates at 36%.
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