Reality Check: Despite Contrary Evidence, Tribal Head Says Its Payday Loan Business Helps Community

RHETORIC: Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Chairperson Says Tribal Payday Loan Business Is Vital to Community’s Economic Development

“Sherry Treppa, the chairperson of Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, a federally-recognized Indian tribe, said that owning and operating small-dollar lending businesses is a vital part of the community’s economic development strategy and the proposed rule would harm the tribe’s economy. The revenue from those businesses has helped to fund Tribal government services such as education and scholarship programs, violence and suicide prevention programs, and other social services.” [Washington Free Beacon: “Tribe Says Regulations Will Harm Its Economic Prospects,” 2/18/16]

REALITY: Investigative Report Found Little of the Money Generated from The Tribal Council of Habematolel Pomo’s Payday Lending Operations Went to Benefit Tribal Members

The Tribal Council of Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Has Payday Lending Operations “Yet Little of the Revenue That Flows Through These Tribal Businesses Ends Up in The Rancheria or Benefiting Tribal Members.”

“And it’s no coincidence that the same structure also houses the office of the tribal council of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. The Native American tribe’s lending enterprises have names like Silver Cloud Financial and Mountain Summit Financial, reflecting the Native American heritage of the rancheria, as these settlements are called. The U.S. government established them for landless Indians in California in the early 20th century, but unlike reservations, a single rancheria can include members of multiple tribes.  Tribal sovereignty allows the rancherias’ businesses to claim immunity from state usury laws, making them convenient shelters for lenders who want to evade regulators. Yet little of the revenue that flows through these tribal businesses ends up in the rancheria or benefiting tribal members, as attested by the cluster of rundown houses nearby, where some members of the tribe live. They don’t look like villainous tycoons preying on low-income Americans. They look more like those cash-strapped loan customers themselves.” [Aljazeera America, “Payday Nation”, 2014]

Treppa Claimed That Payday Lending Operations Fund the Tribe’s Youth, Infrastructure and Cultural Programs “But Rancheria Members Such as Vanessa Niko Said They Don’t See These Benefits On the Rancheria Itself, Perhaps Because None of the Tribal Council Members Lives There.”

“The Habematolel Pomo know this. Most of the rancherias’ land is already occupied by the wigwam-shaped Running Creek casino, which opened in 2012. But Running Creek, with its 349 slot machines, six gaming tables and two restaurants, has failed to live up to its promise. The revenues, wrote Sherry Treppa, the head of the tribal council, “have been below expectations.” The casino cost the Habematolel Pomo $30 million to build. The revenue generated from the payday lending businesses, Treppa said, funds the tribe’s youth, infrastructure and cultural programs. Some of it is also used to pay for the schooling of tribal children. But rancheria members such as Vanessa Niko said they don’t see these benefits on the rancheria itself, perhaps because none of the tribal council members live there. And Niko doesn’t see any new employment opportunities opening up for herself or her five children. “They don’t have jobs for us unless you’re on the council,” she said. Treppa declined all calls for comment after sending a list of talking points by email.” [Aljazeera America, “Payday Nation”, 2014]

REALITY: Tribes Don’t Benefit from Jobs as Most of the Operations and Call Centers Are Elsewhere

“Habematolel Pomo Members Interviewed On a Recent Visit Said None of Them Had Any Jobs Related to Payday Lending.”

“The payday lending enterprises are not operated out of the settlement, and Habematolel Pomo members interviewed on a recent visit said none of them had any jobs related to payday lending. In fact, there are few jobs of any kind here. William Snow, 51, left the settlement straight out of high school. “There’s nothing for young folks to do around here,” he said.” [Aljazeera America, “Payday Nation”, 2014]

Tribes like the Habematolel Pomo “Appear Online as The Owners of Payday Lending Enterprises…But The Call Centers and Other Operations Are Elsewhere” And Tribes Get as Little as 1% Of The Revenue.

“Like the Habematolel Pomo, these tribes appear online as the owners of payday lending enterprises. But the call centers and other operations are elsewhere, and the tribes themselves get as little as 1 percent of the revenue. The entire online payday lending industry brought in nearly $4.3 billion in revenue in 2012.” [Aljazeera America, “Payday Nation”, 2014]



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