As Faith and Community leaders in Hawaii, it is vital that we speak out against predatory lending practices hurting the

families in our congregations and communities. Payday loans, short term loans where our families are being charged more

than 450% APR, are spreading on our islands, trapping families in a cycle of debt.

As many of our faith traditions have taught us, this is usury and all major religious traditions share a deep opposition to usury.

In our ministries and communities, we see many households struggling financially. As we work together to empower families

and strengthen our economy, the last thing we need to do is saddle households with bottomless debt.

We believe that a limit of 36% APR on Payday Loans in Hawaii would be more fair, would parallel the national protections

already on the books for military families and would make it more likely for our local families to be able to pay these debts

without falling further and further behind.

View full letter with signatures below:


Hawaii Could Reign in usurious payday loans

Published in the Star Advertiser April 8, 2015

By Kim Harman

Hawaii law allows payday lenders to charge families 459 percent APR (annual percentage rate) on 14- to 32-day loans.

This high interest rate is the result of a loophole that was created in Hawaii law in 1999; prior to 1999, payday loans were not legal here.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans, often secured with a post-dated check that come due on your next “payday.”

According to the Center for Responsible Lending, payday lending is a $46 billion industry nationwide and is growing here, in large part due to Hawaii allowing such high interest rates.

Early this session, Senate Bill 737 was introduced to reduce the interest rate on payday loans from the current 459 percent to 36 percent. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already cap their payday in terest rates at 36 percent or have made them illegal altogether. The federal government has capped interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent since 2006 for all military and their families. The Department of Defense has found the cap to be so successful in protecting military families from the payday debt cycle that they are requesting authority from Congress to expand the cap to cover other types of high-interest loans, such as car title loans.

But in Hawaii, families are targeted by aggressive payday marketing, charged $86 every paycheck for interest on a $500 loan and trapped in a debt cycle that is very hard to escape. Even successful financial literacy programs run by veteran community organizations such as Catholic Charities and Hawaiian Community Assets struggle to find ways to get these families out of the cycle.

Borrowers have been at the state Capitol, telling their stories to legislators. Veronica, a young mother, was trapped in her payday loan for 11 months. Napua, whose son just joined the Army, told the House Consumer Protection Committee of being ashamed that she fell for the “easy money” promised by a payday storefront.

The Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection has testified in favor of the 36 percent cap at hearings this year. A broad coalition of clergy, advocates, environmentalists and more has called for an end to these usurious interest rates that take advantage of our most vulnerable families.

One legislator on the Finance Committee asked me a few weeks ago: “If we tell the stores and the gas stations that they cannot inflate the price of water and gasoline when a tsunami warning is declared, why is it OK for payday lenders to inflate the cost of credit when a family is in financial crisis?”

Many in Hawaii are in agreement that 400-plus percent interest rates are usury and should not be allowed. Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal bishops here and across the country have been particularly outspoken in support of a 36 percent cap on payday loan annual interest rates.

Supporters of the current interest rate argue that it is unfair to call their fees and charges “interest.” The Truth in Lending Act as well as the Federal Trade Commission require that payday lenders combine all these costs into an APR or annual percentage rate so that borrowers can compare the cost of credit from one storefront to another. In the U.S., we all must use APR for loans, no matter what an individual lender would prefer to call it.

Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama spoke out against predatory payday loan practices. The national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is holding hearings and doing what it can to curb abusive payday practices, but the CFPB, like the U.S. military, was never authorized by Congress to cap interest rates for the general public.

Capping interest rates is the No. 1 reform that would help local families trapped in the payday debt cycle and must be governed by each state legislature.

Payday Lenders: It’s Time to Reign In Hawaii’s Loan Sharks


Payday Lenders: It’s Time to Rein In Hawaii’s Loan Sharks

New legislation would eliminate the industry’s current 459 percent APR ceiling, but an amendment passed Wednesday makes it unclear what the new cap would be.


If you were broke and desperate, perhaps the least you might expect of the government is that it wouldn’t help to make your situation worse. Yet that is exactly what the state has done for nearly 16 years now through its laissez faire treatment of Hawaii’s burgeoning payday loan industry.

As Civil Beat’s Anita Hofschneider reported earlier this week, Hawaii has one of the nation’s most permissive payday lending laws, allowing companies to charge an annual percentage rate of up to 459 percent, according to an analysis performed a decade ago by the State Auditor.

Sadly, not much has changed since that analysis, except the number of lenders offering their payday products to typically poor borrowers with few options.

Nationally, that has resulted in a troubling trend: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, four out of five payday loans are followed by another payday loan within two weeks. The effect of that trend is only magnified in Hawaii with its stratospheric APR limit and lax oversight of the industry.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Payday lending shop along Farrington Highway. 21 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A payday lending shop along Farrington Highway in Waianae. There are at least four in Waianae and Nanakuli, some of the poorest areas on Oahu.

Here’s how the payday loan process works. Borrowers can take out loans of up to $600. The lender gets a 15 percent fee, but the loan must be repaid within 32 days.

Cash-strapped individuals, who often need the money to cover basic expenses such as food and rent, are frequently unable to repay on time. A federal report notes that rather than being repaid, 80 percent of such loans are rolled over or renewed. As a result, payday loan borrowers are typically indebted for roughly 200 days.

Despite the fact that they’re not supposed to be able to take out a second loan while the first note remains due, many do so to repay the first, ensnaring themselves in a cycle of loan repayment from which it is difficult to escape.

Hawaii’s House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee on Wednesday took up Senate Bill 737, a measure that would bring long overdue reform to this industry, including establishing a five-day waiting period between paying off one loan and taking out another and increasing the fine for lenders who willfully violate the law to $5,000. But when it came to interest rates — the heart of the bill — the committee lost its nerve.

In its original form, SB737 would have eliminated the 459 percent APR, forbidding payday lenders from charging any more than 36 percent. However, bowing to committee Vice Chair Justin Woodson, the committee elected to leave the percentage rate blank before passing the measure unanimously. It now will be up to Rep. Sylvia Luke’s Finance Committee to determine not only what the ceiling should be, but whether the APR rate limit is even “the appropriate measurement solution.”

In all of these considerations, payday lenders are well represented: Bruce Coppa, former chief of staff for then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and current lobbyist for Capitol Consultants, was dutifully watching on Wednesday. He has said lack of enforcement of state law preventing lenders from rolling over loans is the real culprit, not the APR ceiling.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday released a proposed framework of reform regulations that would bring new discipline to the $46-billion payday loan industry, which it says collects about $8.7 billion annually in interest and fees. While the proposals focus on eliminating “debt traps” around issues like borrower qualification and the number of loans and loan rollovers possible in a given period, they stopped short of capping interest rates for these short-term debts, in part because until now, payday lending regulation has been done at the state level.

Critics already say the proposed federal regulations don’t go far enough, and that the payday loan industry will be able to exploit loopholes and largely continue current practices. Given that the industry’s products have already been banned outright in 14 states and the District of Columbia, that’s particularly disappointing.

For Hawaii, the interest rate issue thus comes down to what course the House chooses next. Will it follow the Senate’s lead and come through on behalf of impoverished borrowers? Or will it allow SB737 to die, as it did similar reform measures in 2013 and 2014, and continue to leave individuals at the mercy of loan sharks who circle our islands in ever greater numbers?

We’re watching, too.

Immigration Reform Update: FACE Hosts Mexican Consulate; Thanks Obama For Executive Action

The Hawaii Coalition for Immigration Reform thanked Obama for his Executive Action which has extended legal status to thousands of Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Tongan, and Latino Immigrants in our state. HCIR and FACE was featured in the Washington Post with its Mahalo sign waving right before Christmas. See article at:

FACE also assisted in the spin-off of a new group – the Aloha Dream Team which is made up of “Dreamers” young immigrants who have been working with us for about a year. They will be coming soon to your church to help people understand the DACA/DAPA opportunities! We will be their fiscal agent as they seek to raise funds for their work.

Chuukese Christian Ministry & FACE host the President of the Federated States of Micronesia

From left to right: FSM President Manny Mori. Rev. Elvis Killian Osonis, Deacon Mark, & Deacon Olery of Chuukese Christian Ministry, Kahului.


FACE Maui co-hosted the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) on Tuesday, December 9 at Kahului Union Church. The discussion ranged from the economic status of FSM, to funding education, the importance of translation of vital documents and FACE’s lawsuit against the Department of Transportation. A notary was available to help families with their I-94 and passport renewals. Mahalo to Maui County Immigration Services for assisting with this event.


The 12 Days of Christmas…With FACE 2014

The 12 Days of Christmas with FACE

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
A worker-owned homecare coop
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
2 islands organizing for justice
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
3 leaders at national training
On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
4 thousand people eligible for DAPA in Hawaii
On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
5 sign-wavings for minimum wage
On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
6 funders funding
On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:
7 FACE staff a’singing
On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
8 FACE leaders meeting in DC
On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
9 Fabulous Board members
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
10.10 an hour
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
11 drivers tests translated
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
12 months of faith-based organizing!

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963:

…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Continue reading this powerful letter, with notes and annotations, as preparation for MLK Day events on Monday, January 19, 2015.

Letter from Birmingham Jail, MLK Jr. 1963 ORIGINAL of the original mimeographed version of the letter that Dr. Martin Luther King began writing in the margins of newspapers while he was held in jail.

Push policies to allow more homes

Push policies to allow more homes 

POSTED on 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2014

So much demand, so little supply. That’s the dire bottom line when it comes to truly affordable housing for Hawaii’s families — and unless work on policy changes begins today to address the shortfall, a growing number of keiki o ka aina of this and future generations will be forced out of Hawaii.

This alarm in the local housing crisis was sounded at Saturday’s daylong Housing Summit, focusing on how to produce and retain housing, especially rentals, that local workers can afford. It drew some 220 people with diverse interests, including government officials, politicians, developers and ministers.

A gamut of things must start taking root today — including the political will and leadership to drive harder bargains to produce housing that more closely reflects Hawaii’s working-family realities. Some 24,000 more housing units are needed in the coming years, with three-fourths of that needed for those earning less than 80 percent of area median income (AMI), or about $76,650 for a family of four.

Essential will be creative thinking as well as favorable eyes on new options, such as:

» Easing restrictions on Oahu homeowners on the number and types of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, allowed on their property.

Now gaining momentum in the City Council and city administration, this idea to help address the affordable rental demand would open the ADUprocess to more neighborhoods, allow for detached-unit ADUs, and make units available to nonrelatives. Under current “ohana zoning” allowed in certain Oahu neighborhoods, an ADU must be attached or part of an existing dwelling, and be occupied by relatives.

More discussion will be needed, of course, on the ramifications of easing ADU rules: How far it should go and what parameters should be set so as not to unduly burden and disrupt residential neighborhoods. But it’s a concept worth pursuing, and the Caldwell administration rightly sees it as a major component of its Islandwide Housing Strategy.

» Increasing the length of time that affordable units must remain affordable, and lowering the definition of “affordable” and “reserved” housing.

Currently, government mostly requires that affordability be retained anywhere between just five to 15 years; that needs to increase to at least 30 to 60 years, as boldly proposed by the city administration. Also, project approvals should be conditioned with a higher percentage of units in the target 80 percent AMI range.

In Kakaako, the “reserved housing” definition is too high: up to 140 percent of AMI. It is here, in fact, that Gov.-elect David Ige has publicly pledged more help for working families.


Continue Reading…

FACE Interfaith Service on Long Term Care — Transcript


27 October 2014, 6-7:30 p.m.
St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church; Honolulu, Hawaii
By: Dr. Clementina D. Ceria-Ulep

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, honored guests:

My name is Clementina Ceria-Ulep, a parishioner of Our Lady
of the Mount (OLM) Catholic Church in Kalihi Valley, and laity vice-president
of Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE) and an
associate professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at the
University of Hawaii School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. It is an
honor and a privilege to be here with you this evening to talk about an
issue that is very dear to me and a concern to us all—long-term care.
Before I proceed, let me define the word “long term care.” Long-term
care is the umbrella term for the various supportive services used by
persons who need assistance to function in their daily lives. Long
term care services include nursing, home health, and personal care;
rehabilitation, adult day care, case management, social services,
assistive technology and living services. My interest on this issue
stems from my experiences while growing up and during my practice
as a nurse.


Long-term care is the umbrella term for the various supportive services used by
persons who need assistance to function in their daily lives.


My family was fortunate to immigrate to Hawaii from the
Philippines through the kindness of uncle Lawrence, a plantation
worker in the early 1900’s. In the Philippines, my family and I lived
first with my paternal and then later with my maternal grandparents.
My paternal grandfather then in his 90’s, helped my father in the farm
while the rest of my grandparents supervised the home–cooking,
cleaning, caring, and disciplining of the grandchildren. I remember
that our grandparents ruled their homes and were revered by their
children and grandchildren. To this day as my family and friends will
tell you, I am quite fanatic about keeping the house clean, a legacy
from my grandmothers.
Growing up, my first exposure to the issue of long-term care
was through my parish’s involvement in providing volunteer care for
the residents of Beverly Manor, a nursing home near Kalihi Valley
Homes. Once a week, our youth group–Junior Filipino Catholic Club,
visited and worked with the residents on arts and crafts projects. I
recall spending five years as a volunteer at Beverly Manor, where
loneliness seemed to be the order of the day. Over time, I got used
to the atmosphere. Then one day, I invited a high school friend to
accompany me on a visit to Beverly Manor. On our ride back home, 3
my friend cried all the way. She sobbed, “That’s so sad…I would
never put my grandparents or parents in a care home!” How many of
you, during your first visit to a nursing home, made the same
promise—not to put your parents in such a “horrible” place, but ended
up doing so because you simply could not help it?
While studying in Virginia, I befriended Helen who lived alone
and was in her early 90’s. She used to treat some students and I to a
musical play. One day, she broke one of her hips and became
dependent on others. Every day, I would visit and administer her
vitamin B injection. When she moved to a care home, she had to sell
all her prized possessions and used her lifetime savings to pay for
nursing home.

…she had to sell all her prized possessions and used her lifetime savings to pay for her nursing home.


— Continue Reading…

HCIR Media Event Thanks President Obama for Executive Action

On November 21, Hawaii Coalition for Immigrant Rights/Immigration Reform (HCIR) held a media event at Harris United Methodist Church. The purpose of the event was to thank President Obama for taking Executive Action which will extend temporary opportunities to an estimated 7,000 Hawai’i residents, in addition to 5 million residents in the wider United States.

Photography by Shaun Campbell


Attorney Clare Hanusz explains who will be eligible to benefit from President Obama’s Executive Action.
Attorney John Egan lists the various ways all of us will benefit from the Executive Action



FACE and HCIR leaders and community supporters gather before the altar of FACE unit Harris Church to give thanks for the civil rights extended to family members of US Citizens and Legal Residents.