Church to pay off $5.3M in debt for thousands living in poverty

LOS ANGELES, California -- A holiday surprise is coming in the mail for thousands of people throughout the Los Angeles area who are unable to pay their medical bills.

A gift from Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock is wiping out $5.3 million of debt for the poor in 28 local communities.

"I would love to be a fly on the wall for someone whose receiving a notification like this," church member Blythe Hill said.

The more than 5,000 impacted households will receive a letter with the news just in time for Christmas.

"There is 5,555 people that will benefit from this and they will all be receiving letters in the mail this week," Pastor Tom Hughes said.



The church partnered with the organization RIP Medical Debt.

A letter from RIP Medical Debt states "you no longer owe the balance" and "no strings attached."

RIP is a national nonprofit agency that bundles unpaid medical debt. Entities like Christian Assembly can then buy that debt.

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Church members are overwhelmed by the impact.

"Just to open that envelope and be like, 'oh my gosh, my debt's been paid,'" one woman said.

The church collected about $50,000 in the past year. The members were unaware of how it would be used, but the big reveal is now planned for Christmas services.

"So, right now on my own social media feed I'm just like, 'we have a big surprise,'" Hughes said.

The payoff will benefit low-income people in areas across LA County. Because of privacy laws, no one but the billing company knows who is on the list.

If someone mistakenly throws the notification letter away, their debt will still be cleared.

Christian Assembly says recipients may notice no more calls from bill collectors and an improved credit rating.

"God is for you and we are excited to share this gift of generosity because of the generosity of our God," Hughes said.
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