New program hopes to end the cycle of being trapped by payday lenders

Hope for the hopeless.

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Causeway Work Centre launched a new program Friday to help break the cycle of payday loans for those on social assistance and provide them with an alternative option.

The Causeway Community Finance Fund (CCFF) plans to provide individuals with reasonable loans at fair rates that are manageable to pay off. In partnership with Alterna Savings, Your Credit Union and Frontline Credit Union the pilot program will limit interest rates on the emergency loans to the prime interest rate (2.7 per cent) plus two to six per cent. Starting as a pilot year with $100,000 the program will be available to the 900 clients of Causeway and hopes to expand in the years following. Executive Director Don Palmer wants to ensure the pilot is executed well so in the future other organizations and banks can replicate the program.

The CCFF is new to the province of Ontario and will provide greater opportunities for those who would otherwise be unable to afford something bad to happen. In the case of a single mother of three kids who is tight on money, and an appliance breaks she would not be able to replace it without a loan. “We want her to be able to come to us and we want to be able to give her the money she needs on lending terms that are as low as possible and as long as possible,” Palmer said.

In Ontario, the loan industry is worth $1.5 billion. Ottawa has over 70 of the 800 outlets in the province with most being in low-income neighbourhoods where they are visibly present. The average payday lender charges $21 for every $100 borrowed and the loan must be paid off within two weeks. With the average loan being $435 the client is already facing a near $100 in interest. Palmer says this leads to clients going to the pay day lender next door to get a loan to pay off the interest on the first one. With the CCFF “You’re looking at significantly less than half of what any payday lender would ever provide” Palmer said.

Every client who receives a loan through the new program will go through financial literacy training so they do not end up at a payday lender again. This will help the clients of Causeway manage their money so they can end up developing a budget. Participants will be able to “Look at what’s coming in and look at what’s going out. Figure out how they can actually save some money and not go into debt” Palmer said.

Causeway Work Centre is a non-profit organization located in Ottawa that focuses on finding or creating employment for those who face disabilities and addictions. When someone comes to them looking for work they either help the person find a job or place them in one of their own social businesses. The four businesses they run include; catering business Krackers Katering, landscaping business Good Nature Groundskeeping and bicycle repair businesses Right Bike and Cycle Salvation. These programs provide employment, but also aid participants in going back to school or getting a job in another Ottawa business.

The CCFF is another way Causeway has innovated in hopes to alleviate the burdens of their clients.