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"It's an awesome deal," says Donald David, a state highway worker from Scappoose whose Oregon Technology Credit Union saved his bacon one month with a salary payday loan advance when his family was hit with an emergency car repair bill.

Like other state agencies, the Oregon Department of Transportation pays its workers on the first of each month. But the month lasts longer than the money for many people, including Davis, who needed $375 to get his car fixed. And banks and most credit unions limit their lending to larger amounts for longer terms.
Before discovering his credit union offered a more palatable alternative, Davis checked at one of Oregon's 151 licensed payday loan storefronts to see about getting an advance on his next paycheck.

"I was astounded," he said. "The (annual) interest rate worked out to 392 percent." Oregonians paid through the nose for the speed and convenience of the 550,000 loans that carried them to their next paychecks in 2002. The loans amounted to $175 million in that year, the latest statistics available show.

The shops charge $15 or $20 per $100 for their short-term payday loans, which works out to annual interest rates approaching 400 percent. Oregon is one of 17 states that allows lenders to charge what they like without an interest-rate cap. Assuming $15 per $100, state consumer finance regulators figure the fast cash payday loan places charged customers more than $26 million in interest in 2002.

Seeing a need among its own members, many of whom are paid by the month and live paycheck to paycheck, First Fast Cash began its own payday loan service last month at 15 percent interest. The program was barely off the ground before 22 loans totaling $7,500 had been made, reports Bob Cowin, chief operations officer.
Gov. Ned Kuloski urged other lenders to follow First Tech's lead to help Oregonians who "find themselves stretched thin between paychecks."


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