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Chicago church pays off $19 million in medical debt for area residents

Chicago church pays off $19 million in medical debt for area residents

Photo: Getty Images/ColorBlind

A congregation in Illinois raised money to pay off more than $19 million in medical debt for residents living in the Chicago metropolitan area.

VIVE Chicago, a nondenominational church that is one of many VIVE campuses across the country, raised $100,000 to pay off area residents' medical debt, according to an announcement shared with The Christian Post.

The church partnered with the New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, which was able to use the donation to pay off $19 million in medical debt.

VIVE Lead Pastor Adam Smallcombe said in a statement shared with CP that for many people, financial debt “is a type of modern-day slavery imprisoning whole families and even generations into a cycle of poverty.”

“As the church and as Christians our mandate is to liberate people from all kinds of oppression because only free people can truly free people,” Smallcombe said.

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“That's why we felt as leaders it was necessary to bring this initiative to our church and they responded with bold faith and generosity.”

The church’s donation was part of the overall “For Chicago” campaign, which aims to abolish $78 million in medical debt for approximately 71,000 families in Cook County.

“Every day, medical debt destroys the financial stability, health, and well-being of Americans across the country,” the campaign's website states.

“Especially now with unemployment in the U.S. at a staggering high, families in Cook County are not only losing their jobs, but also their health insurance.”

As of Sunday morning, the campaign, which is supported by multiple businesses, has raised $224,704 out of a goal of $780,000.

The campaign adds: “$78 million of debt abolished is $78 million in renewed credit access. It’s parents able to recover from losing their jobs without having to choose between food on the table and paying their medical bills. It’s $78 million dollars back into the economy – a stimulus package that relies solely on the conviction and goodwill of our community. Abolishing medical debt in Cook County is something we can and must do.”

Founded in 2014, RIP Medical Debt has frequently partnered with churches across the United States with the goal of raising money to eliminate medical debt.

With the money raised, the nonprofit buys medical debt for pennies on the dollar via the collection system and forgives the debt so that those in debt incur no expenses.

RIP Medical Debt garnered widespread attention in 2016 when the organization was positively spotlighted on British comedian John Oliver’s HBO series “Last Week Tonight."

In October 2019, multiple Chicago-area churches raised enough money to help pay off about $5.3 million in medical debt impacting approximately 6,000 families.

Those involved included Trinity United Church of Christ, St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park, Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, and the Leadership Network, a collection of local Baptist churches.

Trinity UCC Pastor Ottis Moss said at a press conference held at the time that those involved in the fundraiser “want to see a movement of debt relief.”

“Instead of people praying on individuals, we want to see people relieved of that debt so that they can go about their business and realize the dreams that God has placed in their hearts,” Moss said.

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