Pawn America Offering ‘Free Loans’ to Federal Employees Impacted by Shutdown
In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross questioned why federal workers were turning to homeless shelters instead of taking out a low-interest loan through a bank or credit union to make ends meet during the government shutdown. The remarks received a flurry of criticism, including from impacted federal workers who claimed to be living paycheck to paycheck.
In light of Ross’ comments, Pawn America and Payday America founder and CEO Brad Rixmann wants workers affected by the shutdown to know he’s offering a different solution: interest free and no fee loans.
Furloughed federal employees from Minnesota and Wisconsin are eligible to receive loans from their one of the 30 Pawn America and Payday America stores in the region. To qualify at Pawn America, individuals will have to provide their two most current pay stubs, a valid federal agency ID badge, and a driver’s license or state issued ID. In addition to this documentation, Payday America customers will also need a social security card or W2 or W4 tax filing, and an open checking account with permanent checks and a 30-day transaction history.
The offer is one that Rixmann kicked off in January 11 as the shutdown was nearing its third week.
There are 17,000 federal workers in Minnesota and so far, 6,000 of those employees are either furloughed or working without pay, according to the Pioneer Press. Rixmann didn’t specify how many loans have been granted since the shutdown began, however, he said the number of clients who are federal workers has gone up since the shutdown began.
Rixmann’s helping hand comes less than two years after he was faced his own financial hardship. Pawn America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April of 2017, after increased competition online.
The Burnsville-based pawn shop announced its revival last May, after a financial restructuring and the closure of some stores. Rixmann said that his own hardship inspired him to help others during their time of difficulty. “When the chips were down for me, a lot of people stepped in to help me,” Rixmann said, “and I want to pay it forward.”
Rixmann said the government shutdown has also affected sales. Consumer confidence has declined and Rixmann said waiving interest rates will “absolutely” have an effect.
On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce issued a warning against short-term loans from unlicensed lenders. These lenders, the department said, often charge fees and interest rates that will exceed state law maximums, and many are operating outside of the United States.
To avoid the added financial stress of choosing the wrong lender, Rixmann recommends “doing your homework.” All licensed lenders are listed on the Commerce Department's website.
Moreover, on Friday, President Donald Trump announced that the government would be reopened, temporarily. Terms of loans will remain the same at Pawn America and Payday America. However, with the added uncertainty of a temporary reopening, it is possible that Rixmann may be extending free loans through the reopening of the government.