Guest commentary: The Economic Progress Institute

 For local communities to fully reclaim finance as a tool for generating prosperity, we must remove the obstacle of payday lending. Disproportionately concentrated in majority Black communities, payday lenders like to claim they are providing much-needed funds to people who have no other recourse. This claim is wrong on two counts. First, payday lenders are not offering genuine assistance, but rather setting a debt trap with interest rates above 200 percent, luring people into a cycle of debt that can last years and ruin lives. Second, alternatives are available. For instance, the Capital Good Fund, Navigant Credit Union, and Bank of America all offer small loans, with low fees and interest rates ranging from 5 to 30 percent.

Rhode Island remains the only state in New England with no protections against the payday lending debt trap. It is time to prohibit payday lending and for finance to help local communities build wealth.

The Economic Progress Institute – formerly The Poverty Institute – is a nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders. Since the organization was founded in 1999, it has become a respected authority on issues impacting the economic vitality of our residents and our state.

Guest commentary: Jo Detz, ecoRI News

eco-ri-news | Plastic Oceans International

When I read your call to action, I immediately thought of South Providence and the consistent disinvestment in that community, which is bearing the brunt of many polluting businesses along the Port of Providence. There has been much attention to environmental racisism, equity, inclusion, and equitable solutions at the city level with respect to communities bordering the port, but so much feels like lip service with no real action taking place. For there to be real opportunity for those neighborhoods to thrive and have power, they need an economic leg up. (The level of pollution experienced in South Providence would never happen on the East Side of Providence, which holds so much wealth.)

I wonder what real investment would look like in South Providence—investment that actually comes from the community and not from gentrifying forces…

Joanna Detz is publisher of ecoRI News. ecoRI News covers environmental news for southern New England. Sign up for their weekly e-newsletter at