Approximately one in four Savannahians are living in poverty. It's been that way for more than 30 years, according to U.S. Census data. And the Savannah City Council wants to change that.
The local anti-poverty group Step-Up Savannah met with the council Thursday, and they tried to come up with ways to tackle the issue. One of their biggest concerns is financial services that target the poor – such as title pawn companies, credit repair services and "buy here, pay here" auto loans.
Georgia law sets the annual percentage rate for pawn loans at 187.5 percent.
"What we have in the state of Georgia right now is a strong lobby that has been able to influence our state legislature to pass laws against the interest of poor people and some middle class people," former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, who is a Step-Up Savannah board member, said.
Step-Up Director Daniel Dodd says they're loans of last resort for many Savannahians.
"But the fact of the matter is people are going to these services because a lot of them can't go to traditional services," he said. "They can't access capital. They need it. They're desperate."
WTOC reached out to the Georgia Pawnbrokers Association for their take.
"Like most commerce in the country, we are a supply and demand organization," association president Jackie Kinlaw said. "And because rates are what they are in Georgia we have money available for people. …It gives people the opportunity to have money in an urgent situation that we couldn't give if we didn't have pawn shops or pawn loans available in the state of Georgia."