So far in this spring legislative session, 'Nevadans for the Common Good' sent 4,000 postcards to the governor and state legislators in support of $40 million in affordable housing tax credits and a substantial increase in funding for Nevada public schools.
NCG leaders are furthermore engaged in an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over passage of SB 201, which would establish a payday lending database that would track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers. NCG initially sent a delegation of 10 leaders to the Capitol, which met with 17 legislators in one day. Since then, leaders have communicated their concerns through hundreds of emails and phone calls that included personal stories to legislators about the harmful effects of predatory lending.
Most recently, 50 leaders attended a midday hearing and delivered powerful testimony about the impact of high-interest loans on families. Rev. Sandy Johnson with United Methodist Church in Boulder City, spoke on behalf of NCG, sharing that her personal friend experienced great financial difficulties brought on by payday loans.
“If existing state laws were enforced," said Pastor Johnson, "consumers like her would be protected from being trapped in a debt cycle for more than two decades. The long term economic stability of families should not be undermined if they take out a short-term loan.”
Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan Database, Nevada Independent
Acting on an extended house meeting campaign, in which leaders unearthed stories of payday lending entrapment, lack of affordable housing and concerns around public education, NCG launched a 5,000 postcard campaign to remind Southern Nevada legislators about commitments they had made on the campaign trail last year.
Leaders are calling for $500 million in new state funding for public schools, $40 million for an affordable housing tax credit program and improved payday lending enforcement across the state. With two proposals on the table that would cap interest rates on payday loans (which charge, on average, 652% in interest per year) NCG is pushing for better protections for financially vulnerable families.
80+ leaders and education allies packed the library at Western High School in Las Vegas for NCG's "Education Funding Summit," building momentum for a significant increase in public education funding.
The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities disclosed that nearly $2 billion is needed to adequately fund Nevada schools. Clark County School District Superintendent Dr. Jara and County Judge Voy spoke to the need for greater funding, and Assemblywomen Swank, Miller, and Backus declared their support.
This is part of a larger campaign to prepare for the 2019 Legislative session in which leaders plan to push for expanded funding for schools, increased affordable housing units, and protection for consumers through a payday lending enforcement system.
On a dark Wednesday evening, 500 leaders from Nevadans for the Common Good lit up the gym at West Prep Academy and assembled to secure commitments from federal, gubernatorial, and state candidates at a nonpartisan accountability assembly at West Prep Academy.
With pressure from leaders, candidates committed to work with NCG to increase affordable housing units, invest in public education, increase funding for FQHCs, protect Medicaid expansion, shine a light upon delays in the citizenship process, and create a database to protect consumers from predatory payday lending.
During the forum, leaders shared their personal experiences including on healthcare. NCG leader Taj Ainlay testified that qualifying for Medicaid enabled him to see a doctor “for the first time in seven years.” Agatha Ramirez shared that it took her five months to become a US citizen and that it had taken her brother-in-law nineteen months and counting.
Among the candidates who attended were gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak (D), senatorial candidate Jacky Rosen (D), congressional candidates Steven Horsford (D), Susie Lee (D), Danny Tarkanian (R), and Representative Dina Titus (D).
Candidates Asked Views on Pressing Issues at Las Vegas Forum, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]
“They didn’t read the contract, they didn’t understand or whatever. But just from a Christian standpoint, that what’s Jesus came to do, to help the lowly,” Robin Collins from Green Valley United Methodist Church said. “He came to help the sick, He didn’t come to help the well. So we’re supposed to take care of our brothers and sisters, take care of a widow, take care of an orphan.”
Members of the payday lending industry say they are unfairly stigmatized and provide much-needed access to quick credit that traditional banks or lending institutions do not. Their arguments are bolstered by dozens of lobbyists and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to top candidates.
Still, it’s been more than a decade since the last substantial changes to consumer protection laws on high-interest loans, and advocates — primarily general welfare groups like the Legal Aid of Southern Nevada, a cadre of progressive organizations and the faith-based coalition Nevadans for the Common Good — are looking to the 2019 Legislature as a chance to push for new consumer protections and limits on high-interest lenders.
[Photo Credit: David Calvert, Nevada Independent]
After 2017 Shortcomings, Advocates Prepare to Push for New Consumer Protections on Payday Loans, Nevada Independent
Leaders with 'Nevadans for the Common Good' have begun building a constituency of voters who are educated about the dangers of payday lending by holding civic academies on the subject. The next civic academy is scheduled to take place at Las Vegas University United Methodist Church.
Community Groups Urge Nevadans to Learn Risks of Payday Loans, Public News Service
The meal delivery program targets vulnerable seniors. At current funding levels, the program is reported to provide more than 300 Henderson seniors +112,000 meals per year. However, a city spokesperson reports that nearly 300 additional seniors are on the waiting list.Read more
State legislators in attendance carefully listened and soon followed up with a delegation of NCG leaders, promising that Medicaid privatization of services would NOT happen in 2016, and that the legislative proposal would move more slowly, transparently, and inclusively.Read more