MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The United Church of Christ has paid off nearly four-million dollars of medical debt for thousands of families in Tennessee and Arkansas. More than three hundred of the recipients live in the Mid-South.
As thousands of Memphians and Mid-Southerners struggle to pay their medical bills, faith-driven debt relief is providing what some describe as blessings for those in need.
“Our initial hope with this campaign was to target the most struggling communities in Arkansas, Memphis, and Missouri, we’d hoped to impact a few counties, a few communities we are so pleased to say we did more than that,” Rev. Mary Nelson told us.
The United Church of Christ announcing on Monday it has paid off almost four million dollars of medical debt for thousands of families across Tennessee and Arkansas.
“Members of First Congregational Church in Memphis were happy to be able to join with other United Church of Christ congregations across to the state to share that this debt forgiveness has brought to 3,000 families in Tennessee and Arkansas,” Pastor Cheryl Cornish said.
Cheryl Cornish is Pastor at First Congregational Church in Memphis and said help is needed.
“That’s one in five families in our state live under this kind of pressure of medical debt relief. To be able to provide medical debt relief is not only an act of joy, it’s an act of justice,” Pastor Cornish said.
At Holy Trinity Community Church, Rev. Rob Van Ess calls medical debt an injustice.
“Medical debt relief and ultimately healthcare for all is an act of mercy and a basic human right. We shouldn’t’ have to choose between our medical debt and our groceries,” Rev. Van Ess said.
“It fails to address and remedy the disproportionate impact of debt collections on communities of color that are already at the bottom of the wealth gap,” Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, United Church of Christ Economic Justice Minister said.
The United Church of Christ campaign, over the past four years, has wiped out more than $75 million worth of medical debt. Many see that as a blessing and a calling.
“We are doing what God has called and appointed us to do in this time. Thanks be to God,” Rev. Mary Nelson said.
This is the second time in three years the United Church of Christ has held a major campaign to address medical debt relief.
The United Church of Christ said the average amount of debt forgiven was more than $1,300.