ST. LOUIS — Churches are banding together to raise money to help residents wipe out medical debt.

Episcopal churches in the St. Louis area have raised more than $25,000 to help wipe out medical debt.  They say this money will chip away at more than $5.5 million worth of medical debt for low-income people throughout the city, county, and state.

This fundraising project began with a 2021 budget surplus in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. The Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, Bishop of Missouri, decided to give each parish in the diocese a $1,000 check. Johnson directed them to use the money for outreach in their communities.

The Emery Washington Convocation of the Diocese, which includes 15 parishes in the St. Louis area, decided to partner with R.I.P. Medical Debt. This is a nonprofit that uses donations to buy the unpaid medical debt of low-income families for pennies on the dollar.

As the parishioners donated $1,000 checks, others in the community heard about the project and added to the effort. The campaign brought in $25,287.24 in four months.

Many researchers say that medical debt is the main reason why people in the United States file for bankruptcy. It is one of the leading causes of financial instability for low-income families.