ORANGE, NJ - Families across 18 NJ counties, including 58 recipients from Monmouth County, will receive much-need relief thanks to the congregation of St. Matthew AME Church located in Orange, NJ. The church took on the challenge of raising funds to help NJ families eliminate the overwhelming burden of medical debt in a partnership with RIP Medical Debt. The church goal of $15,000 was initially slated to cover the cost of purchasing and closing the debt of $1,500,000 in outstanding bills for families struggling to get from under this never-ending cycle.
“St. Matthew AME Church has always been a congregation that is concerned about the well-being of members of the community, whether we know them personally or not," said Rev. Melvin E. Wilson, Sr. Pastor. "We consider this effort to be a part of the fulfillment of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, where Jesus implores us that being helpful to others is just like being helpful to him. We have been very involved in addressing the needs of the community before, during, and after the pandemic. This donation continues that focus,” Wilson noted.
In the check presentation following their regular Sunday service, with over 50 members at his side, Rev. Wilson proudly announced that the Church's goal had surpassed the $1.5 Million expectation by covering $1,728,868.20.
"Today we bring fairness and equity to a system that often hurts us," said Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren. "Instead of looking at their (health) needs, people are looking at their insurance, instead of looking at their (health) needs, they are looking at their credit rating and this is where we must step in and say enough is enough." Warren continued by outlining scenarios where residents are forced to make choices of whether to pay their medical bills vs. their mortgage and the negative consequences of both decisions.
In all 929 households across 18 NJ counties will see the impact of their medical debt relieved through this donation. As outlined in his remarks, Rev. Wilson noted that:
- 35 recipients in Atlantic County totaling $61,340.86
- 67 recipients in Bergen County totaling $226,192.15
- 164 recipients in Burlington County totaling $340,603.28
- 21 recipients in Cape May County totaling $51,215.36
- 33 recipients in Cumberland County totaling $45,812.85
- 62 recipients in Glouster County totaling $96,695
- 74 recipients in Hudson County totaling $79,255.17
- 14 recipients in Hunterdon County totaling $84,669.84
- 123 recipients in Mercer County totaling $242,791.67
- 74 recipients in Middlesex County totaling $105,291.75
- 58 recipients in Monmouth County totaling $84,245.30
- 34 recipients in Morris County totaling $74,858.29
- 61 recipients in Ocean County totaling $80,486.68
- 29 recipients in Passaic totaling $50,000.53
- 12 recipients in Salem County totaling $22,470.92
- 24 recipients in Somerset County totaling $24,497.84
- 9 recipients in Sussex County totaling $35,039.02
- 35 recipients in Warren County totaling $23,401.69
"We will see a day when medical debt is non-existent because the system has changed but until that day, there is St. Matthews standing in the gap," said Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake.
RIP Medical Debt is a national non-profit whose sole purpose is to strengthen marginalized communities by abolishing financially burdensome medical debt. The non-profit uses analytics to pinpoint the medical debt of those most in need: which includes those households that earn less than four times the federal poverty level (varies by state, family size) or whose debts are five percent or more of annual income.
"The St. Matthew family led by Rev. Melvin Wilson continues to serve the Oranges in action and in deed," said Tammy Williams, West Orange Council President. "This act of kindness goes far beyond the Oranges and eases the burden of medical debt throughout the State of New Jersey. This example should be followed by many and provides a blueprint for how we can erase the financial burden that the underinsured face today."
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