Robert L. Johnson, creator and former owner of Black Entertainment Television and the founder and chairman of the RLJ Companies, has joined Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in New Jersey, to announce an alliance to reshape the national financial lending climate.

A release from says the partnership’s goal is to “help Americans, particularly minorities, pay down consumer debt, increase household savings, and overcome a cycle of short term and emergency borrowing caused by the excessive use of payday lending.”

According to the release, nearly 12 million Americans turn to payday loans annually when faced with financial challenges in order to cover emergency expenses and meet cash shortfalls. Forty-one percent of borrowers have needed a cash infusion to pay off a payday loan and many ultimately turn to the same options they could have used instead of payday loans to finally pay off the loan.

The book “Payday Lending in America: How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans” published in February found that as a result and because of current high interest lending rates, many borrowers are unable to pay back loans in a timely manner and find themselves in a cycle of borrowing and debt.

Johnson announced earlier this year his financial awareness campaign to “end payday lending as we know it today” and has designated Dr. Soaries and his dfree program as the financial literacy arm to change the lending climate and help minority consumers overcome recurring debt and achieve financial stability.

“I am delighted that Pastor Soaries has agreed to work collaboratively on my campaign to bring about an end to payday lending as we know it today,” said Johnson. “He has been a national leader on educating consumers about the need to live debt free, and I believe that together we will bring about a significant change and provide valuable information on improving the lives of millions of working class Americans, particularly minority Americans.”

dfree is an organization that creates solutions for individuals and organizations pursuing financial freedom and economic self-sufficiency, the release said. The name dfree is shorthand for “Debt, Delinquency and Deficit Free.”

“I am thrilled to join Bob Johnson and his financial initiative to end payday lending and am proud to be a part of the efforts through dfree, said Soaries. “Our mission is to help consumers nationwide achieve debt free living, economic capacity, and to rely less on borrowing, particularly from high interest payday lending institutions. Providing individuals and families with the tools to address financial needs on a consistent basis, helps them to better manage their finances and achieve financial freedom.”

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