Protecting people from usury, ensuring equitable compensation for Catholic school teachers, and speaking up to keep religion in the classroom

Minnesotans deserve good policies which will naturally strengthen families. Instead, our current payday lending laws allow lenders to charge sky-high interest rates that become a debt trap for borrowers. Pope Francis denounces this modern-day usuary because it takes advantage of people in desperate financial situations. He warns that weakening the family, “poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values, and the moral progress of cities and countries.”

To aid the promotion of families, the Minnesota Catholic Conference staff are continuing to advocate for reforms to payday lending policies. In mid-August, MCC joined a statewide coalition for a press conference in Duluth where we called for Minnesota’s legislature to pass a 36-percent annual interest-rate cap on payday loans—a rate which new polling shows has strong public support statewide. This rate, which is the maximum rate permitted for loans to veterans, would provide a morally acceptable borrowing option for families in desperate financial situations.

Ensuring Our Catholic School Teachers Are Not Forgotten

This summer at the Capitol, lawmakers are discussing a financial boost for those who have served as frontline workers during the pandemic. The size of the check and how many people receive a check will hinge on who lawmakers decide should be considered “frontline” or “essential” workers. The Minnesota Catholic Conference is monitoring whether public school teachers and support staff will be included in the benefit program. If so, we will work to ensure that our nonpublic, Catholic school teachers and staff who courageously served our students in-person all year are treated equitably in any assistance program for frontline workers.

The one-time payment is made possible through $2.8 billion in funding to Minnesota from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The state budget that the Minnesota Legislature passed this summer earmarked $250M of ARP funds for “direct financial support for frontline workers” and created a nine-member working group to create a distribution plan for the funds. The working group has until September 6 to provide the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader with legislative language to implement their distribution plan.

Restoring the foundational building block of religion into social studies

Catholics statewide have spoken out against the removal of world religions from the second draft of Minnesota’s proposed K-12 social studies standards. During the public comment period (July 30-August 16)  teachers, parents, grandparents, and community members urged the Minnesota Department of Education’s K-12 Social Studies Standards Committee to 1) add religion to the list of elements of a person’s social identity; 2) explicitly list a diverse range of world religions, and 3) develop two new benchmarks to ensure students graduate high school with an understanding of how religions both develop over time and are embedded into all aspects of culture. We will continue to monitor future drafts of the standards.