$5.3 million worth of debts to be cancelled over 28 cities

Christian Assembly Church is partnering with RIP Medical Debt to alleviate 5,555 households in LA County from outstanding medical expenses. The joint effort aims at cancelling $5.3 million worth of debts from the county’s poorest population as a Christmas gift, according to co-lead pastor Tom Hughes. 

As a nonprofit, RIP Medical Debt has previously abolished $1 billion of debt nationwide. The organization purchases people’s debts at a heavily discounted price, then pays the debts off through donations. 

In a fundraising video on the matter, Hughes explained that medical debt is a burden to many people, but it can be especially troubling for people living under the poverty line.

“For many people in our communities, medical debt is a crushing weight on them during the most challenging time in their life,” Hughes said. “This week, all 5,555 households are going to be getting a letter letting them know their medical debt has been cancelled.”

Poverty in LA County rose from 2014-2018, with 14.2 percent of the county’s populous affected, according to the United States Census Bureau. Given the county’s 3,990,456 resident count, this equates to roughly 566,644 individuals at or below the poverty line. 

Christian Assembly Church compiled a list of all the neighborhoods where they have 15 or more households who are a part of their church. This list had 28 total neighborhoods including Los Angeles, Glendora, Azusa and more.

“All of this is being done in Jesus’ name,” Hughes said. “It’s being done simply because of the generosity of our God and the compassion and mercy that He has shown us.”

Christian Assembly attendees were not informed until Christmas services on Dec. 22. Hughes explained on the church’s Instagram account that the news is a “Christmas surprise” to share the good news of Christmas. 

The move to cancel medical debt comes on the backbones of the church’s current series, “A Serenity Prayer.” The series, which is discussed throughout multiple sermons, analyses the birth of Jesus and asks God for serenity in knowing what a person can change for the better, what they cannot change and how to know the difference.

Dec. 22 marked the last day of this series, the same time that the medical debt alleviation was announced. 

In the Vimeo video made on the topic, Hughes spoke of credit issues individuals may have after their debt is paid off and how it can be solved.

RIP Medical Debt will work with the credit unions to repair the credit damage from the medical debt thereby lifting the credit score of each person. As they recover from their illness, the improved score will make it easier for them to get a job, get an apartment, and help them get back on their feet.

Updated at 4 p.m. on 12/30