Members of eight United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations in and around the District of Columbia have enough money to pay off $ 9 million in medical debt for people in four states. More than 7,800 families in Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey will benefit from the fundraising campaign, church officials said Tuesday.
Because debt collection agencies will accept steep discounts to withdraw mounting medical bills, the more than $ 65,000 donated by 92 UCC members will effectively eliminate more than $ 9 million in overdue bills, UCC officials said.
Church officials noted that the large amount of debt relief comes from a “1 to 100” ratio of gift purchases to debt. Overdue medical bills are often sold to collection agencies at deep discounts. Firms will accept pennies on the dollar to clean the slate, providing quick profits for bill collectors.
While the 7,800 households receiving funds will soon receive letters from the nonprofit group RIP Medical Debt informing them that their bills are paid, in envelopes with the church logo, the church will not know the names of the recipients. specific. However, each family will know which UCC congregations contributed to release their debt.
The Rev. Tim Tutt, senior minister at the Westmoreland Congregational UCC in Bethesda, Maryland, said the pandemic gave members an incentive to help others.
“I am very proud that this network of UCC churches came together during the pandemic to help alleviate the medical debt of our neighbors,” he said in a statement. “At a time when people were isolated, trapped and scared, we reached out with communal dollars to care for the vulnerable and at risk.”
Donations came from Christ Congregational UCC, Silver Spring, Maryland; UCC Congregational of Cleveland Park, Washington; First Congregational UCC, Washington; Hope UCC, Alexandria, Virginia; Little River UCC, Annandale, Virginia; Rock Spring Congregational UCC, Arlington, Virginia; Seneca Valley UCC, Gaithersburg, Maryland; the Justice and Witnesses Committee of the Potomac Association at the UCC Central Atlantic Conference; and a Cleveland-based national UCC ministry, Justice Ministries and Local Churches.
“Our church was excited to participate,” the Rev. Ellen Jennings, pastor of the Cleveland Park congregation, said in a statement. “This is a huge justice issue for many people, especially those with lower incomes, who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.”
Those who qualified for debt relief earned less than twice the federal poverty level, suffered financial hardship, or faced bad debt with debt exceeding their assets.
“Jesus healed people,” Mr. Tutt said. “Helping pay the medical debt of people in need is one way that we, as Christians, UCC’ers, you can follow the way of Jesus. Paying down medical debt helps ease financial, emotional, and mental pain. That is curative. “
The United Church of Christ stands out for a progressive outlook among its more than 800,000 members. The group says it was the first major Protestant denomination to ordain a woman as a minister and the first to ordain an openly gay man to the pastorate.