It has been said that a dollar doesn’t go very far these days, but a local church used $ 15,000 to write off $ 1.4 million in medical debt for hundreds of struggling households.

St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe donated $ 15,000 to settle the medical debt of eligible New Mexicans that had been collected – and had money to help people in half a dozen counties from Arizona.

“You feel like you are changing lives with it,” said St. Bede spokesperson Peg Maish. “It’s not just about writing a check. It’s more personal. “

The church worked with RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based nonprofit that buys debt at a fraction of the amount owed for households with incomes below double the poverty level. Instead of collecting the debt, like other buyers would, RIP clears it, Maish la.

“We are using all the money to write off the debt,” RIP spokesman Daniel Lempert wrote in an email, referring to donations from St. Bede.

In total, they cleared the debt of 782 households. This includes all homes in New Mexico that qualified for the RIP service and homes in six counties in Arizona.

RIP was founded by two former collectors. In 2020, the organization paid off $ 1.7 billion in debt for more than 830,000 people.

RIP sends letters to St. Bede beneficiaries informing them that they no longer owe their medical debts. He also contacts credit bureaus to verify that the debt has been paid and to ensure that people’s credit histories have been cleared.

“St. Bede’s Episcopal Church has paid off the medical debt you have struggled with for several years. No conditions attached, ”the letter says.

Lempert said no beneficiaries were available for interviews due to strict privacy policies.

The church was able to participate in this charity because

10% of her donations are set aside each week for community outreach, Reverend Catherine Volland said in a statement.

“I don’t know if this parish has already funded a program with such a big impact,” said Volland.

Maish said the church decided to help Arizona residents after the medical debts of eligible New Mexicans were paid off, and that they wanted to focus on areas where the Navajo Nation was hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.

The effort prompted organizations across the country to wonder how they could offer similar charitable debt relief – something that Maish says is gratifying.

“What we do helps people; that’s great, ”Maish said. “But if other people get involved, it is a further multiplication of the blessing.”