Grantees track title lenders in Georgia that ensnare people of color and low-income people in cycle of debt

Companies that offer fast loans to people who use titles to their homes as collateral often charge very high interest rates, which many states have barred or capped. Georgia has not passed a cap and also doesn’t track the number of title loans or lenders in the state. But with support from the Fund, a team of reporters from The Current and ProPublica did – and they found that 500 title lenders operate in Georgia, with about 75 percent in zip codes where residents have incomes below the state’s median. A disproportionate number of the lenders are in communities of color and low-income areas. Margaret Coker of The Current and Joel Jacobs and Mollie Simon of ProPublica examined vehicle records, corporate financial documents and court documents, with support from University of Georgia students. They found that TitleMax, whose parent company controls most of the estimated 75,000 title loans made in Georgia every year, averages 119% to 179% interest rates for its loans in the state. In addition to data, the team identified troubling individual stories, such as Savannah retiree Robert Ball, who borrowed $9,000 from TitleMax and has paid $25,000 in the last two years, none of it putting a dent in the principal.