Payday Lending in Salem
Despite what many think, Portland is not the center of Oregon. The true center of Oregon? That would be Salem, capital of the Beaver State. Founded in 1842 and located roughly 50 miles south of Portland, Salem is in Marion County and is bordered by the Willamette River to the west. The word Salem is an anglicized form of the Hebrew word “shalom,” which means peace. Salem hosts the Oregon State Fair every year and is known as “The Cherry City” due to its long history of cherry farming.
As of 2017, the population of Salem was estimated at 167,419 by the US Census Bureau. Unfortunately, the city also has a poverty rate of 17.2%, meaning that an estimated 28,796 Salem citizens live below the federal poverty line. This is almost five percentage points worse than the national average of 12.7% and only slightly worse than Oregon’s overall rate of 15.7%.
“Salem” might mean peace, but impoverished residents of the city feel anything but, as financial stress leaves them increasingly vulnerable to predatory payday loans and title loans.
Payday Loans in Salem
Unfortunately, predatory lenders exist in every state in the union, and Oregon is no exception. Predatory lending occurs when lenders take advantage of customers in desperate financial straits by charging interest that is too high, giving more loans to one borrower than allowed under law, or use overly aggressive collection practices, among other things.
Basically, if your lender is breaking the law to take advantage of you, that is predatory lending, and it is illegal.
Predatory lending presents a particular danger to low-income households, as families without a financial cushion can find themselves trapped in a seemingly never ending cycle of debt after taking out a payday loan.
A payday loan is a kind of short-term loan in which the customer gives a post-dated check as collateral. This check will be deposited after the borrower gets their next paycheck, hence the term “payday loan.”
Payday lenders in Oregon must follow the regulations spelled out in statutes Chapter 725, Consumer Finance and Chapter 725A, Title and Payday Loans. Technically, Oregonians can borrow up to $50,000 from payday loans, but if you make less than $60,000, you are limited to borrowing up to 25% of your net (pre-tax) monthly income. In short, if you make $30,000 a year, you can borrow a maximum of $625, or a quarter of your $2,500 a month salary.
Thankfully, in 2007 the Oregon Legislature capped the interest rate for payday loans at 36%, echoing a national trend in state legislatures. Previously, the average APR in Oregon was 528%.
However, these positive changes can’t completely prevent Salem payday borrowers from being victimized at the hands of predatory lenders. Under state law, borrowers can rollover their loans up to two times, meaning they will repay the same fees all over again, only to continue borrowing money they already borrowed.
More detailed information about payday loan laws in Oregon can be found here.
Local Resources to Help Salem Residents Avoid Predatory Lenders
There are many reasons why a person might take out a payday loan. From medical emergencies, to food insecurity to issues paying the rent, stressful money situations can come seemingly out of nowhere. But high-interest payday loans are not your only options in times of need. In fact, Salem residents have a lot of local resources available to them.
Total per Household
Apparel & Services
Food Consumed at Home
Life and Other Insurance
Pensions and Social Security
Food Assistance Resources in Salem
Starting with the basics, there are plenty of food assistance programs in Salem. If you’re having trouble feeding yourself and your family, look to see if you qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. There are also plenty of food pantries in Salem, such as the Hope Station Community Services, which also offers clothing, household items, and classes in subjects such as money management, and the Salvation Army, which provides food assistance to those in need.
These aren’t the only options: this map from the Oregon Food Bank can point you to the most convenient location to pick up free groceries or a free meal in Salem.
Healthcare Resources in Salem
As for healthcare, the median medical debt in Marion County is $791. That is no small fee for someone with low income, but there are options for you if you want to avoid such debts.
The Salem Free Clinics offer free healthcare to people who don’t have health insurance or who only have emergency insurance. You can make appointments with them for acute medical needs, tooth extractions, chiropractic needs and even counseling. However, they cannot help with emergencies (you should call 911 for emergencies).
Northwest Human Services is another great option, with multiple locations around the Salem area. They offer many services ranging from women’s health exams to sports physicals. While their care is not free, they offer a sliding scale fee program which is based on income and family size.
Finally, there is the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, which operates the Lancaster Family Health Centers at Beverly and Lancaster. Like Northwest Human Services, their care is not free, but they also have a sliding payment scale for the uninsured based on income.
Rent Assistance in Salem
But food and healthcare don’t mean much if you don’t have a roof over your head. This is where rent assistance comes into play. Thankfully, there are rent assistance programs in Salem and Marion County.
A great place to start is the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, a non-profit which can provide aid through their own programs such The ARCHES Project, which offers multiple forms of rent and housing assistance (though some programs apply for specific circumstance, ex. HOME is for those on parole or probation). If you are in danger of becoming homeless and live in Marion County, they should be one of your first calls.
- Less than $20,000:16.5%
- $20,000 to $34,999:17.2%
- $35,000 to $49,999:15.0%
- $50,000 to $74,999:19.7%
- $75,000 or more:29.3%
Median Housing Value
% of Housing Units with a Mortgage
Median Monthly Cost (w/ mortgage)
Median Monthly Cost (w/o mortgage)
- “American FactFinder” US Census Bureau. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk
- “Poverty Data” Talk Poverty. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://talkpoverty.org/poverty
- “Census Business Builder: Regional Analyst Edition – 2.3” S. Census Bureau. Accessed June 8, 2018 https://cbb.census.gov/rae/#
- “Experian’s 2016 State of Credit Report” Experian. Accessed June 8, 2018 LiveCreditSmart.com
- “Debt in America: An Interactive Map” Urban Institute. Accessed June 8, 2018 https://apps.urban.org/features/debt-interactive-map/
- “2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Housing: Selected Housing Characteristics” U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed June 8, 2018 https://factfinder.census.gov
- “2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Housing: Financial Characteristics“ U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed June 8, 2018 https://factfinder.census.gov