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Cash from the Boss to Replace Payday Loans

Offering money through payroll providers can reduce risk and cost

When Kendra Beasley and her husband separated last spring, her bank account was empty and she needed cash for a deposit on a new rental home. Instead of going to a payday lender as she had done once before, Beasley got a $500 loan through her employer, a Sonic Drive-In in Globe, Ariz. When her next paycheck came, the money, plus a $24 fee, was deducted. “If something comes up and I need it, I know it’s there,” she says of the program.

The Sonic franchisee offers the service through Symbius Financial, one of several startups trying to capture a piece of the $40 billion Americans borrow each year from payday lenders. These companies deliver small loans directly through employers with lots of low-wage workers, such as fast-food chains, big-box stores, and hospitals. The hard part is recruiting businesses, which often are reluctant to get involved in employees’ money troubles.